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VIDEO: John Deere shows platooning electric robot tractors swarm

John Deere is stepping up its developments and vision on the future of farming with a video of a concept for a platooning swarm of fully electric and autonomous agricultural machines.

The video titled ‘The Future of Farming like you never imagined’ starts off with showing two previously revealed electrically driven autonomous tractors, the GridCON electric tractor and the so-called Joker concept that premiered on Future Farming’s 2019 November magazine cover.

In the corresponding article, three John Deere leading experts explained why John Deere believes 100% in electric tractors and now the company revealed the next step of this vision.

Idea announced in Future Farming magazine

The new video shows the GridCON connected cable electric tractor with a 1,000 metres long cable (max 2.5 kV/300kW) which rolls on and off automatically. The tractor has a 100 kW (136 hp) all electric drivetrain and an additional power unit that delivers up to 200 kW (272 hp).

The GridCON is connected to one (or more) autonomous Joker tractor implement combinations via an overhead power supply cable providing the electrical energy to its 500 kW (680 hp) electrical power source.

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With one GridCON tractor and 5 Jokers, a platooning swarm of all electric and autonomous agricultural machines is created allowing for a new kind of large-scale agricultural production system. - Photo: Still from John Deere video
With one GridCON tractor and 5 Jokers, a platooning swarm of all electric and autonomous agricultural machines is created allowing for a new kind of large-scale agricultural production system. - Photo: Still from John Deere video

John Deere already announced that idea in this article: “GridCON is a concept for how we could power the Joker, with a long power supply cable. In this concept, autonomy is ideal, as for a driver it’s difficult to manage the logistics of the power supply cable. We got inspired by similar technologies from a 100 years ago and from the Dutch, who use a long drag hose to deliver slurry from a depot or tank to an injector in the field.”

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External power supply

In the video as well as in comments on LinkedIn, John Deere explains that the external power source is located at the field border and connected via a scalable extension cable to the GridCON tractor. Via overhead cable connection systems stretching to maximum 35 metres, the electrical power is transferred to the Jokers.

The Jokers are scalable from about 6 to 16 tons of vehicle weight by ballasting. The new combination, which John Deere calls GridCON2, is an evolution of the single machines with a 3,000 metres, 8 kV and 1,000 kW power line. With one GridCON tractor and 5 Jokers, a platooning swarm of all electric and autonomous agricultural machines is created allowing for a new kind of large-scale agricultural production system. With remote supervision and full control through a digital twin based user interface.

The company also says that hydrogen as a power source still has too many constraints but that a fuel cell at the field border would allow to re-fuel the swarm in operation.

One comment

  • Paul B McNulty

    Just curious to know what the constraints are on hydrogen as a power source?
    Paul B McNulty, University College Dublin, Ireland, July 16, 2021.

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