Dutch company HuizingHarvest turns a Chinese combine harvester into an autonomous vehicle.
HuizingHarvest, an agricultural service provider located in Emmen, the Netherlands, purchased a Chinese track combine harvester. The purchase was done, interestingly enough, through Alibaba.com and WhatsApp. The machine, which set the company back € 15,000, has arrived in their workshop, where it will be turned into an autonomous machine.
The combine harvester is relatively small, with good reason. “When you‘re no longer dependent on labour, you don’t need large and heavy equipment,” says Nico Huizing, founder of HuizingHarvest. “I believe there’s a future for machines operating in swarms, with multiple lightweight machines working together. They will cause far less damage to the soil.”
Huizing thinks his company will be working with autonomous machines in 5 to 10 years time. “That’s why we need to learn about this technology right now. And the best way to learn is by simply starting to work with them.” That’s why the company bought the small combine harvester and wants to make it autonomous themselves.
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The goal is to keep the technology as affordable as possible. The builders are funding the project themselves and want to remain brand independent. Many components needed to make it autonomous, such as cameras, can simply be bought onlione through Alibaba.com.
In September this year the machine should be ready to harvest a small field next to the workshop on its own. And next? “The main thing is we keep challenging ourselves and get familiar with the technology,” says Huizing.
Right now, there is no such thing as a fully autonomous combine harvester on the market. “We‘ll see where this project brings us, there are different options for the future.”
According to Huizing machines like these would be interesting for countries like Cambodia, where’s there’s no shortage in labour, but where the agricultural industry has difficulty keeping up with modern technology, or a country like Canada, where labour shortage is a problem.