A much-discussed autonomous farming unit, the DOT Power Platform, is set to be tested by a select group of North American farmers this coming spring.
The DOT Power Platform is a U-shaped vehicle that fits around “DOT-ready” equipment, or machinery that fits the platform’s specific schematic. The platform drives itself and any attached implement, such as a seeder or sprayer, through a combination of GPS technology and associated precision computer systems
To prep for this limited release, the company and manufacturer behind the driverless technology have brought it south for some fine-tuning.
Rick Pattison, president of Pattison Liquid Systems Inc. – the Canadian company developing the platform for owners DOT Technology Corp – says they have partnered with the University of Arizona’s precision agriculture team to continue trialing the machine in the field.
The power platform is currently at the university’s agriculture centre in Maricopa, Arizona. As Pattison describes, continuing to test the machine in the southwestern state has 2 benefits. That is to say, they can access the expertise of university staff, and continue working on the machine in better climactic conditions – the cold, snowy winters of the Canadian Prairies, where Pattison’s company is based, not being ideal.
“We’re just fine tuning all software before the spring of 2019,” he says. “There’s a team of engineers coming down every week to work on it. Everybody has a different talent.”
While the exact strategies and goals of the collaboration have yet to be nailed down, Pattison says they will be hosting growers demonstration days for American and Canadian farmers, as well as engaging in other outreach efforts.
Pattison says he and his colleagues will announce the availability of some commercial units in the coming months, with a number going to select farmers for trial in the spring.
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A marketing strategy will also be taking shape with the limited rollout planned for the spring. In a press release from DOT Technology Corp., Norbert Beaujot, owner and founder of the company, says Robert Saik – an agrologist, entrepreneur, and agriculture technology expert – will head a team focused on working with farmers “in Canada and globally to establish a retail and distribution system to support autonomous farming.”
“The way producers buy farm equipment has evolved,” says Beaujot in the press release. “[Saik’s] mandate is to work with farmers to better understand their decision making when it comes to purchasing new equipment, and how they want to be supported in today’s high technological agricultural market.”
Saik will head DOT Ready Retail, the marketing subsidiary of DOT Technology Corp – the latter focusing on manufacturing, engineering, and developing commercial relationships with manufacturers for DOT “accessory implements.”
For his part, Saik says the marketing branch will develop a sales strategy once manufacturing contracts have been arranged. Meetings with an American manufacturer, he says, are currently underway.
Saik also reiterates the company’s objective is to get a handful of units in the field seeding early in the spring, afterwards up to 15 additional units will be released and deployed. “We’re going to sit down with a farmer and find out what they are looking for,” he says. “We want live, working, commercially viable units in the marketplace […] There’s still lots of technical work to do.”
He adds the $ 300,000 (CDN) price tag given earlier in 2018 would be a fair price range, though thinks it is still too early to tell for certain. “It’s still too early for us to have achieved economy of scale.”