Pearce: Autonomous platform makes Eastern Canada debut

The U-shaped Dot A-U1 “loads” a SeedMaster row-crop planter on to its platform during the demonstration at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. (Ralph Pearce photo)

It’s been dubbed “the future of agriculture” and for the first time, farmers in Eastern Canada had the opportunity to see the Dot A-U1 Power Platform with in-field demonstrations at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.

The precision ag system, designed by Dot Technology Corp., attracted considerable attention going through its paces during the annual ag showcase, held outside Woodstock, Ont. The demonstrations took place as part of a partnership with Corteva Agriscience.

The U-shaped model is manufactured to incorporate “Dot-ready” implements, with only a few designs currently available: the SeedMaster Ultra DSR (Dot Single Rank) 30-foot seeder, the SeedMaster row-crop planter, a Pattison Connect PLU 120-foot sprayer and a New Leader NL5000 G5 spreader.

Growers in Western Canada are well acquainted with the Dot A-U1 platform but the reactions from those attending Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show were a pleasant surprise to Dot Technology CEO Rob Saik. He had texts and e-mails from eastern growers expressing interest in seeing and learning more about its potential.

“The response has been incredible — really good,” said Saik, noting most growers are looking for ‘economy of scale’ or the cost-efficiency of the technology.

“Out west, we’re looking for scale, where we have to have two or three DOTs working simultaneously in the field. Here (in Eastern Canada), one DOT could satisfy most farmers that are in that 2,000- to 2,500-acre range.”

Interest in the East is sufficient, added Saik, that he and his team are trying to restructure their plans to get a Dot unit available for demonstrations in the spring of 2020.

The technology is marketed to save time and fuel and reduce pollution, with a mobile, diesel-powered engine, capable of reducing overall costs by 20 per cent.

The Dot A-U1 effectively surrounds a specially designed implement and operates via an on-frame computer that is fed detailed mapping requirements. An operator can monitor the unit’s progress and can assume control using a tablet specifically configured for the unit.

Although currently designed for four implements, Saik stated that interest is coming from different manufacturers about newer configurations.

As he pointed out, smaller, more specialized implements such as a rock picker or land roller might be ideal candidates for such innovation, along with the better-known names in farm equipment.

“DOT gives them the strategy,” said Saik, following a brief presentation on the unit. “The companies can come on as a Dot-Ready implement manufacturer and we make that available to them like another option on a Swiss Army knife.”

Current pricing on the Dot A-U1 Power Platform is US$260,000.

— Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont.

Geneva | Reuters -- Food aid meant for starving Yemenis is being stolen and sold in some areas controlled by the Houthi movement, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said on Monday. The Houthis control most towns and cities including the capital Sanaa, from where they ousted Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government in 2014. A Saudi-led coalition intervened against the Houthis in 2015 with the aim of restoring his government. After hearing that humanitarian food was being sold on the open market in Sanaa, WFP said it found many people had not received the food rations to which they are entitled, and that at least one local partner organization affiliated with the Houthi ministry of education was committing fraud. "This conduct amounts to the stealing of food from the mouths of hungry people," WFP executive director David Beasley said. "At a time when children are dying in Yemen because they haven't enough food to eat, that is an outrage. This criminal behaviour must stop immediately." Houthi officials contacted by Reuters did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Yemen's war and the ensuing economic collapse have left 15.9 million people, 53 per cent of the population, facing "severe acute food insecurity" and famine was a danger if immediate action was not taken, a survey said this month. WFP is trying to get food aid to as many as 12 million severely hungry people. It said its monitors had gathered photographic and other evidence of trucks illicitly removing food from designated food distribution centres and local officials falsifying records and manipulating the selection of beneficiaries. "It was discovered that some food relief is being given to people not entitled to it and some is being sold for gain in the markets of the capital," the WFP statement said. Beasley said he was asking the Houthi authorities to stop food being diverted and make sure it reaches the people who need it. Herve Verhoosel, WFP spokesman in Geneva, said WFP was looking at the possibility of distributing cash to needy people, if a biometric identification system could be introduced, using personal data including iris scans and finger prints. He said Beasley had written to the Houthi leadership about the WFP findings several days ago. -- Reporting for Reuters by Tom Miles.

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