“Autonomous agriculture is more than just equipment and robots.”
By Ryan Ridley
Have you ever wondered what it would take to implement autonomy on your farming operation?
“When you’re getting ready for autonomy, part of it is a mindset change – autonomous agriculture is about more than just equipment and robots,” says Chuck Baresich, General Manager of Haggerty Creek.
Attendees of the 2020 Farms.com Virtual Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase tuned in to Chuck’s presentation ‘Getting Your Farm Ready for Autonomy - What I Have Found and What We Are Doing’.
He says that right now, the technology is available to make autonomous equipment, but there are some factors delaying its progression:
- Efficiency and capability
- Potentially slower speeds to save battery life
- Smaller size, less weight, less acres per hour
- Must transport on a trailer to various fields
- Market demands issues
- Must preplan everything
- In the moment decision making can be very efficient
- Are we as farmers just not ready?
“Farmers want efficiency and large equipment is designed to be efficient,” adds Baresich.
Using the AGRIFAC Endurance sprayer as an example, which has a 2000 gallon tank, 180 foot boom, and sprays 327 acres per hour, Baresich says that it’s difficult for autonomous equipment to compete with machines that size.
“Large equipment has made us change the way that we farm. We actually shape our fields around the equipment that we’re using – not necessarily around the farms that we’re farming,” he explains.
Things like field sizes, shapes, drainage, waterways, and square corners are designed “not to get the best crop that we could possibly get, but to be more efficient with our equipment.”
So, what do farmers have to consider when getting ready for autonomy?
First, they need to determine what outcomes they are trying to achieve and have a clear set of objectives and parameters.
“Once you have a clear sense of your outcome and what parameters you’re trying to maintain, are there some things within the parameters that limits your ability to achieve your outcome, and can autonomy help bridge that gap?” asks Baresich. “Are there some regular, repeatable tasks that allow you to use an autonomous machine to do that?”
There are many factors that farmers need to consider with autonomous equipment, “you cannot start by simply saying I’m getting a robot to do ‘x’.”
Factors that could discourage farmers from adopting autonomous farming include:
- What is the cost of the robot?
- What about the old machinery?
- Who is watching the robot?
- How do you get it to the field?
- Will it do the same job or better?
“Will it do the same job or better than what we we’re doing before? I think that’s the key piece,” adds Baresich.
In the below video, Chuck discusses the ins-and-outs of autonomous farming and shares his insights on working with autonomous equipment.