As our staff prepares for the 2016 Farm Progress Show, I’m always particularly interested in seeing what precision innovations companies unveil. It’s worth following the evolution of new technologies, some of which succeed as mainstream systems, while others are perhaps ahead of their time. One concept which falls in the latter category is autonomous equipment.

I recently had the opportunity to moderate a discussion among 9 precision dealer members of the Independent Precision Ag Alliance at its most recent meeting in Gary, South Dakota. Part of the discussion focused on who dealers anticipate will ultimately be the driving force for autonomous vehicles in agriculture. 



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Seemingly on the verge of revolutionizing the ag industry for the last several years, autonomy is still largely in the trial and error phase, especially in the U.S.

Still, the topic is ripe for debate.

Part of the discussion I moderated with Independent Precision Ag Alliance focused on who dealers anticipate will ultimately be the driving force for autonomous vehicles in agriculture. While smaller companies may be able to maneuver and specialize more quickly to develop autonomous technology, will the large manufacturers be better equipped to finance and market the systems?

This remains to be seen, but group members suggested that autonomous products may start as scalable, aftermarket systems — possibly in the form of miniature planters or sprayers performing field operations in a timelier and potentially safer manner.

“I think just because of how quick that venture capitalist money and/or innovation companies are going to bring something to the table. I think we’re going to see it hit on the aftermarket side first, before the large, green, red OEM type companies will be able to adopt and adjust their businesses to handle something like that and develop their

— Paul Bruns, Owner, Precision Consulting Services, Canby, Minn.

Autonomy in ag will continue to be a topic of debate, with little consensus as to the true value of the technology until systems are commercially released, sold and used on farms.