Pattison Liquid Systems – a Western-Canadian farm machinery manufacturer – has partnered with DOT Technology Corp. to produce equipment capable of fitting a versatile, autonomous driving unit called the DOT Power Platform.
This technology is being marketed as a substantial time and money saver. The development of compatible machinery, however, it is still at an early stage, meaning the platform’s potential popularity in Western Canada remains to be seen.
6 platforms and accompanying equipment pieces are set to be released for testing to 6 different farms across the province of Saskatchewan this spring. From there, Mr Pattison says they plan on showcasing the technology at farm shows throughout the summer, and plan to ramp up production later in 2018.
DOT is a U-shaped vehicle that fits around ‘DOT-ready’ equipment – machinery that fits the platform’s specific schematic, which Pattison Liquid Systems is now developing for the Canadian market. 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.
Rick Pattison, president and chief executive officer of Pattison Liquid Systems, says farmers using the DOT platform begin by generating a field map with satellite imagery, or by driving around a field’s perimeter and impediments within, such as ponds, trees, and so forth. That map is then downloaded to the machine’s computer system before beginning its rounds in the field – whether it be spraying, fertilising, planting, and so on.
“The farmer has to sign off on all field maps,” says Mr Pattison. “There are both computer and mechanical safety measures included. If a truck is parked somewhere it’s not supposed to be, the machine will stop.”
According to the marketing, the DOT Power Platform its associated equipment saves the farmer from being stuck in a tractor cab, and from spending comparatively more money on tractors themselves. DOT Technology’s website also claims the system reduces on-farm fuel use and overall carbon dioxide emissions by 20%, while gaining 20% in value on future equipment trade-ins.
Additional claims say the platform is suitable for “scaling” to both larger and smaller farm sizes, though notably, the U-shaped platform only comes in one size (the wheels can be changed to account for different crop row widths, however). It’s also suggested farmers can reduce the variety and ensuing cost of purchasing a wide variety replacement parts, such as oil filters.
Uniformity can often bring substantial savings, after all, but at least some of these savings appear to depend on how many DOT platforms and compatible machines a person has. At $ 300,000 for the U-shaped power-unit alone, the initial price tag is by no means insignificant.
That said, Mr Pattison reiterates the DOT-related costs are substantially better than what many farmers have to spend on diverse fleets of tractors and individually specialized equipment, parts, and so forth.
“We’re early in the process. The cost of our [DOT compatible] machinery [is] a bit of a moving target. We have a ball-park idea and we’re trying to keep things affordable,” he says.