Combine harvester technology has come a long way since the first machine was introduced in 1843 and by the 2030s, farmers could have autonomous combines running through the night on controlled traffic tramlines. Future Farming takes a look at historical and potential developments.
Electronic aids and information systems on combines have come a long way since a British company introduced the agricultural industry’s first grain-loss monitor in the late 1960s.
Hover over the years in the image below for more information or enlarge it here.
Today, highly sophisticated guidance and automated control and adjustment systems are close to making the autonomous harvester a reality.
The installation of grain-loss sensors and a small display in the combine cab paved the way for increasingly sophisticated – and useful – in-cab data displays to support the operator’s own skills.
See also: Simple guide to combine telematics and performance monitoring
Industry harvester experts speculate future technologies already showcased, such as the Case IH’s V2V synchronised combine and grain cart guidance, will be joined by more sophisticated automatic controls.
In addition, greater use of on-board grain analysis could help better inform storage and crop marketing decisions on farm.
But whatever new combine technologies are approaching, they need to add value by raising output, reducing costs or providing useful management data, and they must be simple to use in the frenetic rush of harvest.
2030 vision for combine harvesting
– Increased electronic sensing to monitor harvester load, grain sample, fuel consumption and grain losses to take away the guesswork in making set-up changes while on the move
– Synchronised combine and grain cart GPS guidance to reduce driver stress and workload, and minimise risk of tractor/header collisions
– Smarter on-board data collection and cloud-based processing will automatically generate yield and quality maps by location, crop type, crop condition and variety for more informed decision making- Autonomous grain cart operation to reduce labour costs, with predictive technology getting it to the right place at the right time for combine offloading
– On-board crop scanner detects patches of prominent weeds (for example, grasses, thistles) for subsequent patch herbicide spraying
– Grain harvesting management system will supply crop data gathered on combine to automatically regulate drying, handling and storage system
– Autonomous combines will work through the night on controlled traffic tramlines, adjusting to harvesting conditions and stockpiling grain ready for haulage to store at the start of a new day