Automation the name of the game at 2016 Farm Progress Show

The Farm Progress Show, as its name suggests, brings to the forefront the latest in agricultural technology each year. This past edition was no different as Case IH and New Holland each unveiled their autonomous tractor concepts at the annual Iowa event. Case’s cabless tractor system was presented through video alongside New Holland’s driverless machine, ran completely by computers while performing the same operations of other human-ran row-crop tractors — with ease.

What it comes down to is robots at work in farm fields.

Autonomous tractors are no new concept. The Autonomous Tractor Corporation was formed in 2011 with the goal of converting already marketed tractors to those without drivers as well as the production of newly automated systems. This latest showing by the two companies highlights the first serious effort by large equipment manufacturers to jump towards the completely robotic way of life. With GPS assisted tractors having been in the fields for several years now, the technology has allowed for more accurate position measurements, opening the goats to robots planting crops. These robots seem to the natural progression of such technology utilization.

The foreign looking cabless Case IH Magnum immediately draws the eye of the onlooker with no seat, steering wheel, or other place for a human being. The concept vehicle is noted as the next generation of tractor. The New Holland NHDrive follows more along the normal lines of a tractor, sporting a cab in case a farmer needs to use the tractor for non-automated activities.

Video demonstrations of the robotic equipment showed how farmers are able to manipulate the tractor by tablet around obstacles and in unique situations. Multiple pieces of equipment including support machinery can all be controlled without having to step foot in a cab.

Each company noted the need for more years of research ahead for the technology. John Deere has also been active in the automation world recently, having implemented their grain cart assist where tractors can be driven by the combine while pulling alongside to collect grain on the go during harvest.

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