Kinze Unveils Autonomous Row Crop Technology

Driverless tractors are now a reality.

Published on: Aug 3, 2011

Called the Kinze Autonomy Project, the new technology utilizes autonomous ag equipment to complete many tasks on the farm with minimal direct human input.

"We are 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."

A demonstration with a combine and grain cart was given to dealers and the media on July 29. A combine started forward and a driverless tractor pulling a grain cart pulled up along side, collected grain from the combine and then drove to the "staging area" and stopped. (See video.)

The system is not a remote control. Basically, the combine operator sends one of four commands to the software in the tractor that is pulling the grain cart, explains Brian McKown, Kinze chief operating officer. They are: Come and find me; Off-load; idle and go to staging area. The tractor and grain cart can locate where the combine is in the field.

Kinze has been working on this project for more than two years and performed extensive obstacle detection testing to ensure the accuracy and safety of the autonomous equipment. Kinze will market the technology to help growers increase productivity by allowing them to focus their time and attention elsewhere while performing cursory monitoring of the Kinze autonomous equipment, according to McKown.

The technology was originally developed in a laboratory setting using computer simulation. Kinze engineers partnered with JayBridge Robotics, a Cambridge, Mass., firm to bring the technology from the lab to the field, and to test and refine the work.

Kinze is developing plans for a commercial launch to the market where it can be used for planting, fertilizing, spraying and harvesting operations.

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