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Within the next decade, farming as we know it is expected to be revolutionized by the use of self-driving tractors and robots that can perform time-consuming tasks now done by humans.

Sales of major farm machinery have been in a continued slump amid weak prices for key crops such as corn and soybeans, but the ever-present need to control farm costs and increase output will eventually drive farmers to adopt autonomous technologies.

Experts say the first wave of autonomous tech in ag will go primarily to higher-value crops, such as tree nuts, vineyards and fresh produce. Also, some suggest that the big tractors could be replaced with self-propelled autonomous implements, such as sprayers in row crops, orchards and vineyards or with other robotic equipment for other specific tasks on the farm.

All told, Goldman Sachs predicts farm technologies could become a $240 billion market opportunity for ag suppliers, with smaller driverless tractors a $45 billion market on its own. Tens of billions could be spent on advanced tech for major farm uses such as precision fertilizer, planting, spraying and irrigation, Goldman predicts.

While the automotive industry works diligently towards self-driving vehicles, it’s possible the carrots you’ve eaten recently were semi-autonomously planted and harvested with Case IH equipment by Bolthouse Farms, one of the largest carrot growers in the United States.

And the U.S. is hardly alone. Autonomous agriculture is coming everywhere, and it’s happening much faster than autonomous cars. There are fewer restrictions, far less likelihood of interactions with other farm equipment or people, and a measurable payback for large-scale farmers.

Over the past 15 years, farming equipment giant John Deere has been working to increase automation capabilities, according to Julian Sanchez, director of John Deere’s Technology Innovation Center. Sanchez has been involved in everything from system design to development of the human-machine interfaces that support Deere’s semi-autonomous vehicle systems. The company’s Intelligent Systems Group developed many of the components for Deere’s semi-autonomous vehicles, from the GPS receiver to the embedded controller that helps drive some of the vehicle’s subsystems to accomplish semi-autonomous jobs.

 

 

Course Curriculum

Plowing patterns.
Technology + farming equipment
Semiconductor impact of autonomous agriculture
The future, 5G

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