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Agriculture and Autonomy: Scott Garvey interviews Sask. DOT owner

By Spencer Myers
Staff Writer

We’ve heard lots about the coming revolution of self-driving cars. Some of the biggest tech giants on the planet like Google and Tesla are working hard to bring this to roads around the world.

But closer to home, with far less fanfare, farmers are already bringing autonomy to the field in the form of SeedMaster’s fully autonomous DOT unit.

Dustin Burns, who farms near Kandahar, Sask., is one of the first farmers to own an early-release DOT platform.

“This year, obviously, it required significant oversight, as everyone wants to be careful,” he told Glacier FarmMedia machinery editor Scott Garvey during the 2019 Ag in Motion farm show.

“It’s an autonomous machine without an operator on it. We had a lot of rules and regulations to make sure we didn’t have a bad incident.”

Burns, who also comes from an engineering background, saw an opportunity to be an early adopter of equipment he says could be the norm in just a few years. At the time of the show, Burns had so far used the DOT for this year’s spring seeding. He stressed that while many things are similar, there is still a lot to learn.

“With any new equipment there are a lot of adjustments. We run SeedMaster drills, so we’re familiar with the opener, but the interface is very different. And of course, the interface is remote because you’re not physically on the machine. There is a lot of forethought required; you have to map the fields ahead of time. There is a program that plans the path and you have to approve it, so it doesn’t go where it shouldn’t go.”

This year Burns’ farm incorporated a single DOT into its fleet and said that machine on its own couldn’t completely handle all the seeding acres, at least not under the current requirements for oversight.

Burns said the DOT demonstrated there could be some initial time savings, but so far the financial gain wasn’t there in the short term, but he’s still hopeful for the future.

“Long term, that’s the goal,” Burns said. “On our operation we need more than one machine to start seeing a payback. It’s a matter of scale.”

This article was originally published in the Manitoba Co-operator.

Click HERE to read the full article at The Manitoba Co-operator’s website, or click HERE to see our full interview with DOT owner Dustin Burns on AgDealerTV.