Five Categories of Automation: A Technology Framework
Diverse farming operations from California to the Carolinas — or from Brazil to Bangladesh— raising everything from apples to zucchini and corn to soybeans, can benefit from varying levels of automation. Case IH has led the way and now is laying framework for the technology.
Since its reveal of the autonomous concept vehicle in 2016, Case IH has continued evolving the technology and further defining automation and autonomy for agriculture. Discussions with customers around the world have helped us study how this technology can be implemented for maximum benefit in all types of operations. Now, through our Autonomy and Automation Program, we’re researching and piloting autonomous technology in real-life scenarios.
Our autonomous concept vehicle provided a platform for discussions with farmers and the industry about the technology needed for High-Efficiency Farming operations today and in the future. We’re ready for the next step: showing how automation and autonomy applies across agriculture and how it can advance the precision farming solutions you’re likely already familiar with and using on your farm.
Five categories of automation for agriculture
Through extensive Customer Driven Product Design research, we’ve found that current and future technology needs fall into five categories of automation for agricultural field applications. The categories and types of activities associated with each include:
- Guidance: technology, such as Case IH Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) AccuGuide™ autoguidance and AFS AccuTurn™.
- Coordination & Optimization: data sharing that allows communication among vehicles in the field; path planning; ISOBUS Class 3 technology.
- Operator Assisted Autonomy: in-vehicle operator supervision of automatic and manual implement adjustments via AFS Soil Command™; ISOBUS Class 3 technology.
- Supervised Autonomy: in-field supervision across multiple vehicles, such as managing a tractor and grain cart from the seat of your Axial-Flow® combine.
- Full Autonomy: brings together the levels of autonomy appropriate for your operation — delivering value with each step — with the potential for full automation.
It’s exciting to explore the efficiencies that automation and, eventually, full autonomy can bring to your farming operation. It’s important to note: these categories are not linear, and a given fleet may even fit into more than one category at a time, depending on what you decide best fits your operation and how you like to farm. For example, many of you likely already operate in the Guidance and/or Coordination & Optimization categories.
Researching and piloting autonomous technology in the field
The only way to validate on-farm uses for autonomous technology is with field pilots where farmers use it on their own farm, integrate it into their own fleet and conduct their everyday activities. Today, we’re collaborating with Bolthouse Farms — one of the largest carrot producers in North America, operating across four states and Canada — on an autonomous tractor pilot program. The goal is to understand how new autonomous technology can be used and how it meets real-world on-farm requirements.
The pilot program will focus first on primary tillage and deep tillage — both highly repetitive tasks Bolthouse Farms conducts year-round — using a small fleet of autonomous Steiger® Quadtrac® tractors pulling a True-Tandem™ disk harrow or Ecolo-Tiger® series disk ripper.
(The previous article “Five Categories of Automation: A Technology Framework” was archived on “March 13, 2018” from “http://blog.caseih.com”)