There are self-driving tractor that are going to plow a field.
John Deere unveiled its new tractor at a press conference last week. The company hopes to sell the tractor later in the year.
John Deere hopes the new machinery will help fill the gap between the world's growing population and the decreasing number of workers on farms.
According to a press release from John Deere, the global population is expected to grow from 8 billion to 10 billion by the year 2050. Farmers must feed this growing population with less available land and skilled labor and work through the variables inherent in farming like changing weather conditions and climate, variations in soil quality and the presence of weeds and pests.
The John Deere tractor has technology already in it that can be used to be autonomously. John Deere says that farmers don't need to do anything other than set up their equipment in their field and use their mobile device to start the tractor. The farmer can leave the field while the machine is on.
Farmers will be able to see live video, images, data, and metrics from their mobile device, which will allow them to make adjustments as needed.
This may seem like a big step for farmers, but John Deere has been automating much of its equipment for nearly two decades. Much of the company's machinery uses an auto-steer system that uses gps. A lot has been taken off of farmers' hands because of these tractors, but they still need a driver to correct and missteps. The new tractor is taking existing technologies to the next level.
This is not a demonstration. It is not a concept machine. It's something we've had in the field with farmers for years and will be taking to production in fall, according to the vice president of production and precision ag production systems at John Deere.
Farmers can spend over $600,000 on certain tractor models. Some farmers are still worried about the costs of the automation system even though John Deere is selling it separately.
Many farmers say they can't repair their John Deere tractor on their own, they have to find a John Deere authorized repair shop to do the work, which can be expensive. If a farmer misses a lease payment on their tractor or modifies their equipment, the company can remotely shut it down using cloud technology.
Kevin Kenney, an agricultural engineer who believes farmers have the right to repair their own equipment, said that John Deere is trying to be the Facebook of farming.
While self-driving machinery can help farmers save money in the long term by limiting the number of workers they need on their farms, the necessity of the involvement of artificial intelligence in farming is still debated amongst farmers.