We've gotten a fair amount of feedback on a story that Laurie Bedord wrote in the September issue of Successful Farming about the future of autonomous machinery and equipment.
Some folks say it's definitely the future while others say it's not. There are folks in the middle, though, who say they feel it's likely the future of farming, but there are a lot of kinks to work out in the technology before it becomes reality. And, others say that even with all the great technology in the world, we won't ever be able to eliminate the "human element" from field operations like tillage and running the grain cart.
So, what does everybody think? Do you see a day when you'll be running your tractor from an iPhone or something like that? What are your concerns with transitioning to something like that? Safety? Cost? Efficiency?
For me personally I would not by an autonomous vehicle or the technology for it anyway for the simple fact that we have struggled with our gps just on anhydrous. Knowing our luck we get a solar storm right about the time we send coordinates and watch the tractorw/implement plunge in the East Nishnabotna. I would rather hire a capable person to drive if I had to.
Well in theory its awesome! It would be really handy to have my tractor going while I was in the farm yard working on something else. However, I would never own one. The GPS and technology behind it wouldn't worry me, I have had great luck with our tremble system. I wouldn't own one simply because its my job to be out in the fields, I like to see whats happening in crops boarding strips being worked, what moisture looks like, if certain weeds are becoming predominate. I NEVER let anyone run tractor on our farm besides direct family who understand our fields. However, I know lots of people have hired help to run tractors and the idea of having field work done is appealing to me. Thats my 2 cents....
Auto-steer is a wonderful thing and has helped us with efficiency. It also is easier on the driver to watch other things and not tire as easily. As for going to the next level... Not sure we're ready for that. Lets first have the auto steer make turns at the ends of the rows before we step out of the cab!
I think that it would either lower quality of work or be more work than most people think. What if the automated equipment is planting and gets trash balled up on one row? What is the computer going to do about that? If it can sense it and stop, you still are going to have to drive out to the field just to clean it up. Is a computer on a combine going to sense that pile of dirt from a badger hole that the poly snout on the corn head is about to ram into? It will be a long time if ever before the farmer is taken out of the picture. It would take some serious faith to turn your back on several hundred thousand dollars worth of equipment. I feel just a little guilty when I am using GPS and think about what my dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather had to do. Imagine how guilty I would feel if I was watching football while the tractor did it's own work.