If you’re interested in autonomous tractors rather than field robots, you’ll have your best shot with brand independent suppliers of autonomous retrofit kits as there’s only two tractor manufacturers offering autonomous tractors right now.
Finding skilled tractor drivers remains to be a massive challenge all over the world. For some tasks, you can already turn to over 30 field robots that are or come on the market this year.
But what if there’s no field robot available to do the tasks you desire, if you’re not ready yet for field robots or when you have an existing fleet of tractors to do the job? Then, an autonomous tractor might be the solution for you job. Finding one already is quite a challenge, let alone finding one that lives up to farmers’ expectations according to ‘the Autonomous Wizard of Oz’.
Factory fitted autonomous functionalities (officially) still are exceptional as only startup Monarch Tractor and Yanmar are offering autonomous tractors this year.
There are others such as CNH, Escorts (Farmtrac), Kubota and Mahindra who have shown autonomous tractors before or offer these regionally, but who don’t want to be included in Future Farming’s overview as yet. For now, you’ll have your best shot with brand independent suppliers of autonomous retrofit kits.
Six suppliers to choose from
If you’re interested in upgrading an existing tractor, self-propelled machine or other vehicle to fully autonomous operation, you can currently choose from six suppliers who answered Future Farming’s questionnaire in time:
- Blue White Robotics
- Braun Maschinenbau
- GPX Solutions
With that said, Sabanto doesn’t offer a retrofit kit for tractors but a ‘farming as a service’ model in the United States and deploy their own machinery at your farm.
Blue White Robotics from Israel has its roots and 20 years of autonomous technologies experience in the Israeli air force. Their tractor system interfaces with sprayers, mowers, harvesters and discing implements, and can integrate with smart implement controllers (like AgOtter rate control and calibration devices). The company claims to be able to reduce operational expenses with 50% and the autonomous tractor mode can be switched off with a simple switch.
The Braun Maschinenbau Vineyard Pilot Assistant (VPA) system is based on fellow German Robot Makers’ RowCropPilot assist lane guidance system. The company is the exclusive integrator of the RowCropPilot system on Fendt tractors. Their solution is especially aimed at orchard and vineyard owners who want to undercut trees autonomously because ‘mechanical undercutting of fruit trees demands the utmost concentration of the driver’. With the Braun VPA system, tractor speeds can be doubled.
Polish GOtrack stands out for being able to install their AutoDrive system on most tractors – old and new – with power steering. It doesn’t require a tractor with a cvt transmission and drive by wire technology. The system not only controls the tractor but also implements. Obstacle detection is standard, detection of persons is optionally available.
GPX Solutions from The Netherlands partly relies on Raven technology for their aftermarket add-on package. Their iQuus system has been developed to integrate within current technological developments like Isobus, task control (TC) and the high-tech tractor controls. It was developed for growers with row crops like vineyards, orchards, hop fields and tree nurseries as many of these have row and drive patterns that exist for up to 15 years! In a worst-case scenario, one operator can be saved with annually 500 operational hours.
Sabanto from the United States offers autonomous farming operations as a service. They have a fleet of 60 and 90 hp autonomous tractors situated across the Midwest but you can hire to do planting, tine weeding, rotary hoeing, cultivating and vertical tillage on your fields. The tractors’ and implements’ the performance, status and health are monitored by their staff hundreds of miles away. All their tractors are capable of being used in a (manned) manner that they were intended to be used for.
Australian ThornTek’s vehicle guidance systems can be retrofitted to many types of vehicles and machines to perform various operations on farm land and on farms. There are currently two systems operational in China. The system relies on tractor’s warning and error messages to stop or shutdown and doesn’t include collision avoidance technologies. Instead, the company recommends a third-party collision avoidance system supplier.