Autonomously plowing your fields – from a phone 1500 miles away

Autonomously plowing your fields – from a phone 1500 miles away

At the John Deere booth at this year’s CES in the Las Vegas Convention Center, conventiongoers could do something incredible with an iPhone. They could pushed the PAUSE button on an iPhone and thirteen hundred miles away, in the middle of a field outside of Austin, Texas, a giant, bright green, driverless tractor stopped short. Hit RESUME and the tractor started up again. Put down the iPhone and the tractor resumed tilling the field, all by itself.  

The breadth of what you can do with the tractor via the demo app was limited. You could stop and resume the tractor, as well as increasing or decreasing its speed in a straight line and while turning. There are no turning controls. But what this signals is huge.

In the demo, a farmer first geo-fences the field boundaries and then the tractor can determine its own path based on how wide the tiller is. Tillage is the only job the technology is programmed to handle but John Deere hopes to have a complete autonomous production system supporting every step of the farming process by 2030.

The John Deere spokespeople ballparked such a tractor between $600,000 to $700,000, with the autonomous technology implementation adding a further $100,000 on top of that. Older tractors from the 2020 model year and up can also likely be retrofitted with the tech. The update should “take only about a day” according to a 2022 CNET story.  

There’s no doubt in my mind this is how the future of farming will look. It’s been coming for a long time; and spending long hours out in the field will almost certainly be a thing of the past very soon.

There are already calls that John Deere and other equipment manufacturers will have fully autonomous fleets that they manage and simply send to your fields on a subscription-like basis.


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