Sunday, August 14, 2022

John Deere releases autonomous tractor for US market

Autonomous tractors could be available in New Zealand in the next few years after John Deere announced the technology will have a limited release to North American farmers this year.

John Deere’s first autonomous tractor for large-scale production has been released to the US market. It could be available for New Zealand farmers in a few years time.

Autonomous tractors could be available in New Zealand in the next few years after John Deere announced the technology will have a limited release to North American farmers this year.

The company unveiled its first entirely autonomous tractor for large-scale use in Las Vegas earlier this month.

John Deere Australia-New Zealand managing director Luke Chandler said the tractor would help farmers meet the challenges of feeding a growing world population while being as efficient and sustainable as possible.

“To assist in bridging that gap, John Deere is continually advancing technology to help farmers meet this challenge and to do so while working with reduced access to land and skilled labour, changing climate and weather conditions, variations in soil quality and the presence of weeds and pests,” Chandler said.

“This autonomous tractor is an extremely exciting innovation that will help to ensure New Zealand farmers have the opportunity to adopt era-defining AgTech to address these challenges and to support high-performing and sustainable farm businesses.”

The tractor is a 410HP John Deere 8 Series model, which is widely used for cropping applications, including tillage, cropping and spraying.

The tractor uses six cameras to enable it to detect objects and calculate distance, with the images captured by the cameras passing through a neural network that classifies each pixel in 100 milliseconds.

This determines if the machine continues to move or stops, depending on if an obstacle is detected. 

This allows it to operate within less than 2.5cm of accuracy. The tractor is also continuously checking its position relative to a geofence, ensuring it is operating where it is supposed to.

John Deere Australia-NZ production systems manager Ben Kelly said access to autonomous machinery for large-scale production has never been so important as NZ farmers continue to be faced with limited availability of skilled labour.

“With this new tractor, it is as simple as transporting the machine to a field and configuring it for autonomous operation. Then, using John Deere Operations Centre, farmers can swipe from left to right to start the machine and can leave the field to focus on other tasks, while monitoring its status from their mobile device,” Kelly said.

That centre provides access to live video, images and data, and allows farmers to adjust speed, depth and more from the mobile app. In the event of job quality anomalies or machine health issues, farmers are notified remotely and can make adjustments to optimise the performance of the machine.

“The tractor will be available to a limited number of US customers for purchase this year, before it is rolled out gradually to other countries, including New Zealand, over the next few years,” Chandler said.

  

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