Gerrit Kurstjens, is a pioneering farmer who has already clocked up 40,000ha of autonomous operations on 13,000ha of cropping area at Beefwood Farms, Moree in New South Wales, Australia. In this exclusive series of blogs he explains more about these remarkable developments.
Beefwood Farms would be delighted to work with a company that is prepared to build an autonomous system on existing farm machines. We can support this development by providing the tractor, support for personnel, and workshop space. On top of the basic cost, we are prepared to share the profit that can be achieved by savings in labour and using the equipment more efficiently.
It is a simple calculation that the significant increase of efficiency is the main profit when considering that our fields are about 1,000 ha, are very flat and square, with almost no obstacles. That makes it easy to use the equipment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
One way to achieve autonomy is to put “autonomous boxes” onto the existing tractors of other brands.
In Australia, I am not aware of any law that a person must be on the field to control autonomous vehicles. Instead, farm machines should be equipped with at least double safety systems to replace this person on the field. Grain Producers Australia has started talks with the government seeking formal endorsement and adoption of its new “autonomous farm vehicles code of practice”.
It is no secret that some farm machine factories already have had autonomous systems for many years but decided not to put them on the market for economic reasons. Understandably, some suppliers of autonomous systems like to build a system on a tractor of their choice. To be independent can be a valid reason for making their own tractor. We need 200KW plus tractors on 3-meter wheel tracks or wheel centres to pull existing equipment for cropping farming.
With new machines, some hick-ups are expected, but by running the system 24 hours a day,7 days a week, there will not be many unknown problems left after one year. It is a quick and cheap way to make the autonomous system market-ready, especially if a nearly unlimited farming area is close together.