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Case IH debuts driverless autonomous spreader

Case IH has revealed the Case IH Trident 5550 applicator with Raven Autonomy technology, the agriculture industry’s first autonomous spreader.

“This is a significant milestone in our accelerated product development efforts between Case IH and Raven, highlighting our intense collaboration and robust product innovation following CNH Industrial’s acquisition of Raven in late 2021,” says Scott Harris, Case IH global brand president.

Autonomous control

The guidance and steering, propulsion control, perception, and path planning software in the applicator is all run off software developed by Raven. Operators will be able to plan and complete an entire operation based on mapped field boundaries, all from a mobile device. 

The Raven Autonomy perception system uses a series of advanced cameras and radar to sense obstacles in a 360° environment around the machine. Using artificial intelligence (AI), the Raven perception controller processes a continuous stream of images, interpreting and detecting obstacts. A remote operator can view the cameras through a mobile device.

If an obstacle is detected, the machine will come to a stop and an alert will pop up on the operator’s mobile device. From there, the user can determine the next course of action. 

The operator can also remotely monitor fuel level, diesel exhaust fluid level, speed, RPMs, bin-level status, Universal Terminal information, diagnostic trouble codes, and more. 

The autonomous technology allows for one or more driverless machines in the field without an operator in the cab. Operating at a constant speed, with precise handling, the applicator provides spreading consistency without human error, and is designed for repeatable performance with sub-inch accuracy. If a farmer wants to take manual control, the machine offers the full flexibility of the Trident 5550 cab to step in and drive.

Farm testing

Ben Voss, director of sales for Raven Industries, says this autonomous spreader was developed based on feedback from farmers, who said they’re struggling with both labor, and trying to get more efficiency out of their equipment. 

Brady Fuhlman, a fifth generation farmer in Saskatchewan, Canada, has been using the autonomous Trident applicator on his farm since May this year. With limited labor availability to run his family’s 10,000 acre farm, Fuhlman was interested in autonomous technology.

“Working in tight time windows, weather dictates everything,” says Fuhlman.” Labor's not the easiest to find. So we want to do the best job that we can every pass, every operation we do. Autonomy is one thing that's gonna allow us to do that.”

Fuhlman worked with the autonomous Trident on 2,000 acres at his farm. He says he experienced a few hiccups due to the learning curve of working with new technology. By the end of the experience, however, the applicator was able to cover 400 acres in a single day. 

“On our farm, we're gonna have to change operationally,” says Fuhlman. “Logistically, stuff is going to have to be adjusted to make this work for us. There's a lot more technology, field mapping, and data to handle.” 

Fuhlman says the data management was handled by one of his employees with a background in precision agriculture, and believes having a full-time expert on staff will be important in the future for autonomous agriculture. 

Future and commercial availability

This technological development for Case IH is the result of customer research following the company’s autonomous concept vehicle launch in 2016. Monte Weller, senior director for crop production, and hay and forage product management at Case IH, says based on this research, fertilizer application was one of the product lines that would make the best sense for autonomy. 

“With Raven’s background and Case IH’s knowledge in the fertilizer and spreading business, we thought to focus on bringing a fertilizer applicator on first to really understand the learning curve, because this is a platform we will be building upon,” says Weller.

When it comes to consumer availability for this autonomous technology, the company is in the very early stages of understanding the regulatory aspects from state to state, says Weller. Case IH will be doing some field testing in the fall with growers and ag retailers to determine the best way to bring this technology to the market. 

The Case IH Trident 5550 applicator with Raven Autonomy will be operating with limited availability in 2023.

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