In 2019, SeedMaster’s DOT autonomous implement carriers (or power platforms as they’re now named) started work in paying customers’ fields for the first time. A handful of these machines were sold to farmers in Saskatchewan, all within driving distance of the SeedMaster manufacturing plant in Regina. When the company began commercialization of these units, they stayed near where they were built so company engineers could work with the new owners to iron out any unexpected problems.
The autonomous machine started as a hobby project of SeedMaster’s president and founder, Norbert Beaujot, but it evolved into a production offering for the company.
However, in late 2019, DOT Technology Corp. (the subsidiary company formed by SeedMaster to focus on DOT autonomous technology) was sold to SeedMaster’s technology partner Raven Industries, who decided to merge it into the company’s stable of concept autonomous ventures. That changed the market trajectory of DOT, with Raven deciding to pause the commercialization effort temporarily as it undertook further R&D.
There are currently four customers who have purchased a DOT. And another seven units in Saskatchewan are working through Raven’s validation program in farm fields with company staff operating them.
Raven expects to expand the validation program through the start of next season with possibly another four or five machines added to the program, some of them possibly in the United States and abroad.
DOT’s original corporate owner, SeedMaster (as the parent company of DOT Technology Corp.), will continue to manufacture the specially designed 30-foot seed drill designed to mate with it, as well as a trailer for road transport. Currently, two other firms are producing a unique implement designed to mate with the machine — New Leader, which builds a dry product spreader, and Pattison Liquid Systems, which builds a 120-foot sprayer.
AutoCart ready for 2021
While no major changes are expected in the design of DOT, according to a company spokesperson, those changes that do result are likely to be in the technology used to control it. Raven has integrated some of the sensors and systems used on its other autonomous project, AutoCart, which is a system designed to allow a driverless tractor to pull a grain cart in a field at harvest.
The company claims AutoCart will be commercially available in time for the 2021 harvest season. And at the beginning of December 2020, the company announced it is already accepting pre-orders for the autonomous grain cart system.
Raven’s website describes AutoCart’s abilities this way: “AutoCart lets farmers set a field plan, stage locations, adjust speeds, monitor location activity and command the tractor pulling a grain cart to sync with the combine as it offloads on the go. The driverless tractor can then be returned to a predetermined unloading area. AutoCart provides the farmer the ability to monitor and operate a driverless tractor from the cab of the combine.”