Ames Company Introduces Driverless Tractors to Help Farm Labor Shortage

BOONE, Iowa- The Farm Progress Show 2018 hosted a demo of a driver-less tractor.
An Ames company, Smart Ag has developed this technology which allows a tractor to operate, pulling a grain cart behind a combine.

“Compare that to the transition from the horse to the tractor, said Smart Ag CEO and Founder Colin Hurd. “I think that it will have just as big an impact in farming as the tractor did almost 100 years ago.”

The technology is designed to be simple. The software directs the tractor, without constant monitoring by the combine operator, who ultimately has control of where the tractor goes.

“At Smart Ag we strongly believe the best way for producers to increase the capacities of their farms is to allow them to perfect the operation of their machinery,” said Hurd. “That can be accomplished by using Smart Ag automation and driver-less technologies.”

A driver-less John Deere tractor was running around a field with a combine to show how it would operate during a harvest.

“You do not have to define the path a vehicle goes,” said Mark Barglof, Technology Officer for Smart Ag. “All you need to do is set a destination point if you’d like to, and the tractor will figure out how to get from point a to point b itself.”

The tractor also has radar to avoid or stop if an object is in the way.

The Ames Company has around 15 employees, and has been working to develop a driverless technology. The firm has a major investor in Stine Seed Company.

The units are expected to sell for $35-40,000 each. Testing will take place at several farm locations this fall. The units may be on the market in 2019.