Robot Tractors? Its closer than you think


It seems everyday we hear about the some new technology that will revolutionize the way we live and work, but what about the way we farm?

The agri tech sector is a world of opportunities and ideas with many agri software companies now launching yearly. From drafting systems to computerized heat detection systems computers are helping and changing our farming practices everyday.

One thing that has not yet changed however is our tractors. Hundreds of man hours are spent on our machines, cutting, harvesting, feeding, pulling, the list is endless but what about robotic tractors? Driverless tractors? Well it seems the days of the man behind the wheel are numbered.

CNH industrial the owners of well known tractor brands Case and New Holland have been working on this issue for many years and have already developed concept tractors that can operate without drivers.

Laura Overall, corporate communications manager with CNH spoke with That’s Farming about their autonomous tractors.

‘We launched the autonmous tractor at Farm Progress (an agriculture show) in Boone, Iowa, earlier this year. We had already shown how small scale autonomous vehicles could be developed but we wanted to show that large scale autmonous vechiles could work too.’

The CNH automous concept tractor was a significant investment by the company who wanted to show what was possible. The Case model as shown features no hood which marks it out quite distinctly. The vehicle can be programmed remotely to work in fields and with complex machinery.

‘We wanted to show it using a planter as that is one the harder farming implements to use,’ Laura said.

Overall commented that farmer feedback had been very positive at their launch in the US and that their chief executive Richard Tobin has said that in a time frame of 3-5 years CNH industrial will be producing some form of autonomous machine.

Though Overall says it may not necessarily be the cabless autonomus concept tractor as shown in the video.

Autonmous tractors have been singled out by acadmics in the UK too who have said that robot tractors may fill the need for farm labourers in a market where numbers are already deceling.

Speaking with the BBC, Professor Simon Blackmore of Harper Adams University said:

"Farmers dealing with high value crops right now are using seasonal labour, and with the advent of Brexit and possible limitations on seasonal labour, a lot of the farmers I'm speaking to are very, very nervous.

"There is this opportunity... to be able to replace significant numbers of seasonal workers with highly automated machines."

The concept tractors featured in the video wont be on show in Ireland or the UK anytime soon but the Case IH Autonomous Concept Vehicle will be on the Case IH stand at the SIMA trade show which takes place near Paris between 26th February to 2nd March 2017. Something to look out for.

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