When field testing prototypes, Canadian ag equipment, manufacturers—like all others—need to log as many hours on a machine as is possible in the shortest amount of time. If they stick to testing in Canada, snowfall pretty much sidelines the equipment for at least half of the year. But if they head far south of the border, they can find sunshine and warm weather ideal for working in farm fields all year round.
DOT Technology Corp has done exactly that with its testing program for the DOT autonomous implement carrier, or power platform as they are now calling it. The company developed a partnership with the University of Arizona, and they’ve had one of their machines working fields at the university’s agriculture research station near Maricopa all winter.
According to Pedro Andrade Sanchez, and an associate specialist at the U of A, the university conducts a wide variety of research into a range of agricultural practices. But testing equipment is a relatively new venture for them, so they were pleased to get a chance to work the DOT machine into their research activities.
Last week, DOT Technology in partnership with the U of A held a demonstration day at the University. The idea was to show farmers and others in the industry the level DOT’s autonomous technology has progressed to. The company has already sold an initial limited number of machines that will be seeding field this spring, and a second batch is due for commercial release in a couple of months.
The crowd at the event came from all over Canada and the U.S., showing how much interest there is in using autonomous equipment in farming. According to Marco Coppola from DOT, interest in attending the event exceeded the available spaces, so some people had to be turned away.
Although the DOT machine is commercially ready, the company is still working closely with the handful of early adopters as the technology and design evolves. But according to Robert Saik, the founder of Agri-Trend who is now working with DOT Technology Corp., he expects that evolution will continue for some time. Not necessarily looking at the machine, itself, and its software, but in how it will fit into agriculture as the industry, itself, evolves. And expanding the range of jobs it can handle.
Those evolving industry needs is a subject we at Grainews have been discussing lately, too. Specifically, we’ve been wondering if farming practices like one-pass seeding will continue to dominate as yields continue to grow. (Look for an article on that in the next print issue.)
If canola yields grow to 50, 60, 70 bushels per acre or more, the amount of product required per acre to sustain that kind of crop would grow significantly. How big can seed carts possibly get? And how many support staff will be required before producers cry uncle and revert to a multi-pass approach to seeding? Some growers I’ve spoken to have already decided to make the switch.
Saik points out that a DOT could be extremely useful in such a situation, allowing for multiple field passes throughout the year to fertilize and spray crops. At the same time the need for support staff and equipment would be significantly reduced.
That fit with developing trends is just one of the reasons everyone I know at DOT Technology Corp believes they’re onto a winner with the autonomous vehicle concept.