Machinery

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"Autonomous tractors are the future"

The autonomous farm equipment market will be worth US$ 150 Bn by 2031, according to a report by market research company Fact.MR. We talked to Shambhu Nath Jha, Senior Research Consultant at Fact.MR and lead author of the report, to find out the facts behind the numbers.

According to the latest report on autonomous farm equipment by Fact.MR, the global autonomous farm equipment market is projected to expand at over 10% CAGR through 2031, and top a market valuation of US$ 150 Bn by 2031.

With growing inclination towards partially and fully automated tractors, harvesters, and other farm equipment, manufacturers are investing more in research & development (R&D) activities in order to capitalize on the upcoming opportunities, states the report.

But what does this mean? Why are farmers willing to invest in autonomous technology? What are the consequences for major tractor manufacturers and farmers around the world? Shambhu Nath Jha, Senior Research Consultant at Fact.MR, answers these and other questions.

What are the main reasons for farmers to invest in autonomy in the coming years?

“A changing world with advancing technological development has resulted in changing farming patterns across the globe, especially in developed countries. Due to a growing population and greater environmental awareness, farmers must produce more food more sustainably with the same amount of land. Ultimately, autonomous technology will make the difference in years to come.

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Shambhu Nath Jha : "A growing population and greater environmental awareness means farmers need to produce more food more sustainably from the same amount of land. Ultimately, autonomous technology will make the difference in years to come." - Photo: Fact.MR
Shambhu Nath Jha : "A growing population and greater environmental awareness means farmers need to produce more food more sustainably from the same amount of land. Ultimately, autonomous technology will make the difference in years to come." - Photo: Fact.MR

Farmers should be able to integrate new technology into existing fleets and have to be given access to real time data regardless of their location. Furthermore, in the future an autonomous tractor will make it possible to completely automate grain handling during the harvest. With the help of portable interfaces, an operator will be able to keep an eye on all key parameters and modify them as needed.

The main drivers that will facilitate numerous market opportunities for autonomous tractor market are:

  1. Freeing up skilled labour, which can be redeployed
  2. 24/7 working capability
  3. Eliminating operator fatigue
  4. Fully interactive interface with immediate, secure recording and transfer of farm data
  5. React to weather data and stop automatically when weather conditions deteriorate
  6. Ability to work in tandem with traditional machines
  7. Advanced obstacle detection
  8. Increasing regional government initiatives to help farmers enhance output with help of advanced technology
  9. Narrowing the skills gap
  10. Most farmers today would like to work less hours resulting in more spare time
  11. Information-based management cycle for advanced agriculture.”

Tractor manufacturers say that they do not yet sell autonomous tractors worldwide, because laws and regulations in almost all countries do not allow it yet. In addition, there are insurance issues. What is your view on this?

“Legal structures, laws and regulations may result in the forming of barriers against adoption of precision agriculture management with help of autonomous vehicles. However, regional governments in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are now understanding the importance of integration of Inter of Thing (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in precision farming. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) published the Agriculture 4.0 report, which supports use of autonomous tractors and other smart machineries to enhance production outputs.

According to Fact.MR, adoption of advanced autonomous technology in agriculture by developed countries will pave the way for autonomous tractors in emerging economies. Furthermore, continuous innovation and integration of advanced farming technology could open up numerous market opportunities across the globe.”

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The CNH autonomous tractor has been around for a number of years. When introduced in 2016, CNH said it may take a while for legislation to adapt to it. That's still the case today. - Photo: James Andrews
The CNH autonomous tractor has been around for a number of years. When introduced in 2016, CNH said it may take a while for legislation to adapt to it. That's still the case today. - Photo: James Andrews

If autonomous vehicles break through, what will be the consequences for the major tractor and implement manufacturers such as John Deere and CNH?

“Autonomous tractors and self-propelled harvesters are no doubt the future. Fact is that farmers need to be equipped with tools to help them gain insights into how to improve their yields and make informed decisions. Integration of autonomous tractors in existing fleets would result in improving efficiency and cutting down production costs at individual level. Key players such as CNH and John Deere already have prototypes of autonomous tractors to serve global farmer communities.

Case IH presented their vision for a possible future of farming: an autonomous concept tractor was presented at Goodwood Festival of Speed, which took place in the UK. The autonomous concept tractor was on display at the FoS Future Lab exhibit. FoS Future Lab exhibit is Goodwood’s technology and innovation pavilion, featuring dynamic and interactive content to inspire everyone from experienced industry audiences to younger FoS attendees – the next generation of scientists, inventors and explorers.

This tractor is also equipped with a range of technologies that are used for remote monitoring and control via a PC or tablet, meaning once the tractor is in the field it can work completely independent, eliminating the need for a driver to observe operations.

Key players in the tractor market are constantly working towards product innovation and integration of sensors as well as computing technology to facilitate farmers working with high precision farming technologies.”

Also read: Why autonomy hurts big tractor manufacturers

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An overview of the global autonomous tractor market, according to research company Fact.MR. - Source: Fact.MR
An overview of the global autonomous tractor market, according to research company Fact.MR. - Source: Fact.MR

What impact will autonomous tractors have on the competition between farmers worldwide?

“Agriculture is an integral part of the world’s economy, most of developing countries rely on this sector. It is considered a primary source of employment, income, food and other basic needs. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); the agricultural population is 67% of the total population, it recorded 39.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 43% of all global exports include agriculture commodities.

Technological development and improved efficiency will encourage precision farming with help of autonomous tractors. Use of these technologies by farmers could meet global demand, which would result in changing complete farming strategies across the globe.

For instance, farmers in developed countries will opt for precision farming and will cut down their production costs. On the other hand, high initial investment costs and unfavorable regulating landscapes could result in a loss of market shares regarding global agricultural trade for developing countries and underdeveloped nations.”

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Kubota is one of the tractor manufacturers that have invested heavily in autonomous tractors. This one still with a cab, however.  - Photo: Kubota
Kubota is one of the tractor manufacturers that have invested heavily in autonomous tractors. This one still with a cab, however. - Photo: Kubota

Currently, luxury cabins offer tractor manufacturers a way to distinguish themselves. Autonomous tractors do not need a cabin. What impact will that have on the agricultural tractor market in your opinion?

“Cabin comfort is certainly a differentiator now, which will be different in the future. A potential differentiator for the future is battery efficiency, but the capability of farming equipment – including tractors – to integrate into other technological systems will also be a key area of development. One of the companies we noticed is working on integrating weather data into farm equipment. For example, if a machine is operating on a farm and it knows rain is coming, it will automatically stop work and perhaps even park at a safe location. Meaning increased convenience and less human intervention will act as a differentiator for these brands as well. However, whether previously mentioned technology can actually be commercialized depends on the price.”

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U.S. company Monarch Tractor recently launched a fully electric autonomous tractor. The tractor can perform pre-programmed tasks without a driver or an operator can use Monarch’s interactive automation features including Gesture and Shadow modes to have the tractor follow a worker on the job. - Photo: Monarch Tractor
U.S. company Monarch Tractor recently launched a fully electric autonomous tractor. The tractor can perform pre-programmed tasks without a driver or an operator can use Monarch’s interactive automation features including Gesture and Shadow modes to have the tractor follow a worker on the job. - Photo: Monarch Tractor

Shambhu Nath Jha is an experienced Senior Research Consultant at Fact.MR, a leading research and consulting firm. Fact.MR is headquartered in Dublin, and has offices in UAE and India. The insights presented here are based on a report on the Autonomous Farm Equipment Market by Fact.MR.

One comment

  • Celal Zaim Çil

    We also developed a new automated agricultural robot in PeK Automotive, in Slovenia. Please read the news in the New Atlas Portal: <>
    Best regards,
    Celal Zaim

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