Driverless tech set to transform farming

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The Case IH Autonomous Concept Vehicle (ACV) and other driverless tractor makes are likely to change the face of farming forever. The Case IH Autonomous Concept Vehicle (ACV) and other driverless tractor makes are likely to change the face of farming forever. The Case IH Autonomous Concept Vehicle (ACV) and other driverless tractor makes are likely to change the face of farming forever.

The emergence of driverless tractor technology such as the Case IH Autonomous Concept Vehicle (ACV) will allow workers to focus less on manual labour and more on the science of farming, according to a Case IH Australasian executive.



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Labour shortages cost Australian farmers more than $150 million a year in lost productivity as they struggle to find specialist workers and technicians, according to a 2012 Senate inquiry into higher education and skills training to support agriculture in Australia.

Case IH Australasian marketing manager Pete McCann gave a presentation on the topic at the GrowAg Summit which was held in Albury, New South Wales (NSW) last month.

He says while the eventual introduction of driverless tractors represents a big change, the potential benefits are huge.

"This sort of technology can help to overcome these shortages, and help to attract people into the industry," McCann says.

Case IH and its parent company CNH Industrial have developed the ACV, a cabless row crop tractor that operates without a driver, and can be used with a wide range of paddock implements.

Through the use of radar, light imaging and onboard video cameras, the vehicle can sense stationary or moving obstacles in its path and will stop on its own until the operator, notified by audio and visual alerts, assigns a new path.

The ACV, which was first demonstrated at the Farm Progress Show in the US in August, can be controlled either via a desktop computer or a portable handheld tablet.

"The whole idea of bringing that tractor out of the development shed was to show people what we’re working on," McCann says.

"As with Australia’s first tracked tractors, which we brought out in 1996, we’re leading development of this autonomous technology."

The New Holland NHDrive concept autonomous tractor was demonstrated at the same show in the US that, unlike the Case IH, is equipped with a cab that is completely identical to that of a standard New Holland T8.

University of Sydney associate professor in precision agriculture Brett Whelan says driverless technology is likely to help attract more university graduates into jobs within the agriculture industry.

"Automated vehicles running broad-scale farming operations open up new linkages between agricultural science and engineering," Whelan says.

"Combining an understanding of agricultural systems and high-tech engineering provides exciting new career pathways for the next generations to help feed and clothe the world."     

Case IH has confirmed it will bring a concept vehicle to Australia to show farmers at some point, but there are no current plans for local farm trials. 

 

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