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Robot tractors heading to a farm near you

AFP . Las Vegas
09 Jan 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 09 Jan 2022 10:35:25
Robot tractors heading to a farm near you

Driverless plows and autonomous tools to weed vegetable plots are the latest innovations ready to help farmers juggling labor shortages, climate change and environmental protection, while trying to feed a growing world population.

Venerable American farm equipment manufacturer John Deere and French agricultural robot start-up Naio debuted their latest innovations at the Consumer Electronics Show, which began Wednesday in Las Vegas. 

Touted as a means to feed the world, John Deere combined its popular 8R tractor, a plow, GPS and 360-degree cameras to create a machine a farmer can control from a smartphone.

Once the tractor is driven into the field, the farmer can simply swipe right to send it on its way, with no need to be in the cab.

Equipped with six pairs of cameras and artificial intelligence capabilities, the equipment constantly checks its position to the inch, and stops automatically as soon as it perceives an obstacle and sends a warning signal.

The autonomous plow will be available in North America this year, John Deere Chief Technology Officer Jahmy Hindman told AFP.

Other versions to seed or fertilize fields will come later, but combines to harvest crops are more complicated. The company has not yet specified the price for the equipment.

Technology is not new to the agriculture industry. For nearly 20 years, farmers have used GPS to aid steering, allowing them to plow straighter than a human.

“The customers are probably more ready for autonomy in agriculture than just about anywhere else because they’ve been exposed to really sophisticated and high levels of automation for a very long time,” Hindman said. Other major farm equipment manufacturers are working on similar tractors.