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No Driver? No Problem!

At its product introduction event in Illinois in August, John Deere introduced Machine Sync, a telematics product that will allow a combine operator, and the combine s autosteer system, to take control of a tractor and grain cart during on-the-go unloading. It does not, however, eliminate the need to have an operator in the tractor pulling the cart for the trip back to waiting trucks.

As impressive as Deere s technology is, Kinze, an Iowa-based implement manufacturer, is nearly ready to introduce a completely robotic grain cart telematics product. The company held a public demonstration at the end of July to show off the result of its Kinze Autonomy Project. As reporters watched, an unmanned tractor pulling a Kinze grain cart took a load of grain from a combine and delivered it safely to the required location.

To create the Autonomy system, Kinze, which has been building grain carts since 1971, partnered with Jaybridge Robotics of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The company believes the system will soon make grain cart drivers obsolete. It could have applications far beyond just one single farming operation, as well.

We re excited to introduce the first truly autonomous row crop solution in the world on this scale, says Susanne Kinzenbaw Veatch, vice president and chief marketing officer at Kinze. This technology could be used to do a variety of tasks, including planting, nourishing, maintaining and harvesting crops.

Two years in development, the technology has been tested under a variety of real-world conditions, according to the company. As innovative as it sounds, though, it s not the first on-farm automation product. A few other companies have already introduced similar systems designed for some other farm-equipment functions, such as automated feed delivery, ut their range of operation is relatively limited compared to Kinze s system, which allows a tractor to work in a field without direct supervision.

Some simple forms of autonomy are used in rice production and orchard operations, Veatch says. However, until now, no other manufacturer associated with row crop production has offered truly autonomous technology like this.

In the demonstration, the company used a John Deere tractor equipped with their Autonomy system. The combine operator simply signals for the cart when its time to unload, and the tractor responds by positioning itself under the unloading auger and follows the combine. When the cart is full, the tractor pulls the cart to the staging area, where a truck driver can manually unload it. After that is complete, the tractor returns to the field on its own, ready for another cycle.

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Details on exactly how the technology works are still limited. And while the company is not yet releasing the system for commercial use, it expects to do that soon. It will eventually be sold through the Kinze dealer network.

To watch a demonstration video, visit www.kinze.com.

ScottGarveyismachineryeditorforGrainews.

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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