While other equipment designers have been building driverless tractors, long-time prairie inventor and entrepreneur Norbert Beaujot has come up with a way to eliminate the tractor from field operations altogether.
Farmers attending Ag in Motion™ this summer will be among the first to see the Dot Technology Corp’s Autonomous Power Platform in action.
Demonstrations take place at 2:45 pm daily at Exhibitor Plot No. 661, located between 5th Street and 6th Street.
This development is about more than the next evolution in farm implement design; it represents revolutionary change in how farmers use equipment in their fields.
“Everyone else is working on adapting the tractor technology to be autonomous, where this takes a grassroots look at it and says why do we need a tractor?” says Beaujot, president and founder of SeedMaster, who has been developing the concept over the past three years through its sister company Dot Technology Corp.
Not only does the Dot Power Platform eliminate the need for the hefty drawing power of a four-wheel-drive tractor, it eliminates axles, wheels and hitches on most field implements by essentially turning them into self-propelled units.
“The main reason I wanted to avoid having a tractor is if you take a 500 horsepower tractor and you drive it through the field, between 20 per cent and a third of its power requirement is to move itself. It has to have all the weights on it for the traction to pull whatever is behind,” Beaujot says.
“In this case, the weight of the implement and weight of the grain, or seed or fertilizer — whatever you put into it, satisfies the traction requirement.”
It takes only seconds for the U-shaped “prime mover” operating on four independent hydrostatic wheels to sidle up to a specially designed implement such as seeder, sprayer or grain cart and hydraulically lift it onto its platform.
By carrying the implement instead of pulling it, it provides the same mobility but without a driver.
Beaujot says it will reduce the capital costs farmers have tied up in farm equipment in addition to offering double-digit cuts in the cost of fuel and labour.
“I suspect that we would be looking at a 20 to 30 per cent saving per foot of implement,” he says.
The platform can be controlled by a remote operator or programmed through GPS with a “flight plan” for the field or part of the field. The unit shuts itself off if it deviates from its programmed path or if it encounters obstacles that have not been previously identified. The operator can monitor and adjust the programming for several units operating simultaneously through a mobile device.
The unit is powered by a 160 hp Cummins diesel engine, which Beaujot said is more than adequate for operating a 30-foot seeder at speeds up to six m.p.h.
The company plans to conduct field tests throughout 2017 and make the first units available to a select number of farmers in 2018. Full commercialization will follow. It also plans to make the platform accessible to all implement manufacturers for development of Dot Ready™ implements.
Beaujot has seen the trend to larger farms continue on the Prairies, which has coincided with fewer experienced operators available to do the work. He believes this technology is part of the solution.
“I am convinced that if we put side by side any operator and a machine like this that is properly set up and you run them both for 17 hours like farmers try to do at seeding time, that it will not only operate better and safer, but it will do a better job,” he said.
Be among the first farmers world-wide to experience this new machine during the live demonstrations at Ag in Motion this year.