The original article was first published on Hackaday by Jenny List
Matt Reimer makes his money farming fields in Southwestern Manitoba, Canada. The main commodity in this part of the World is grain. Besides the person driving the combine harvester, there is a position which requires even more relentlessness. There is always a person who drives a tractor next to the harvester, collecting the grain to a trailer and making laps to unload the contents of the trailer into a big truck. Obviously, a person for this job is hard to find, especially when the other farmers in the area are also hiring.
At first, Matt was working on the idea of remotely controlled tractor. He continually moved on to using autopilot systems, even developing his own Autonomous Grain Cart software. Currently, his installation can drive towards the harvester, collect the grains from it and drive back.
The unloading it into a truck is not yet automated. However, considering the speed of Matt’s progress, which he monitored on his YouTube channel, the update including the automation of tractor unloading should be coming soon.
It is important to note that Matt’s farming land is quite ideal, as it is big and flat, for developing such a system. Implementation of autonomous grain collector in a less forgiving terrain could be harder. The safety features demanded from autonomous vehicles have to be set high. Also, agricultural tractors are big machines, capable of running over or through most objects. Vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers have already made their transition, but at this size, more challenges around safety will arise.
Matt’s work is still very impressive. It is the proof that important innovation does not only come from high profile research labs. Automating farming practices could be a considerable set up in agricultural production. In a long term, it could also mean cutting costs in this area. Autonomous farming has a lot of potential and it could ‘grow’ into a new branch of a well-established industry.