Kinze planting system saves labor costs

The Kinze Autonomy Project, the first of its kind in row crop production worldwide, utilizes autonomous agricultural equipment to complete many tasks on the farm with minimal direct human input.

First it was the driver-less grain unloading system. Now Kinze Manufacturing Inc., has given editors a look at how its new Autonomy Project will help growers reduce labor costs and stress at the beginning of the season.

In a presentation on the Web, Kinze unveiled its precision planting technology — an autonomous planter that operates without an operator in the tractor cab.

The Kinze Autonomy Project, the first of its kind in row crop production worldwide, utilizes autonomous agricultural equipment to complete many tasks on the farm with minimal direct human input.

“We are proud to offer the first truly autonomous row crop solution on this scale in the world,” said Susanne Kinzenbaw Veatch, vice-president and chief marketing officer at Kinze. “Knowing how important it is to get crops into the ground during the short planting window, we’re excited to offer this system to help growers be productive and make the most of their harvest.”

The Kinze Autonomy Project is designed to reduce the need for skilled operators by taking the human element out of the tractor cab. Kinze plans to market this technology to help growers increase their productivity by allowing them to focus their time and attention elsewhere while performing cursory monitoring of the Kinze autonomous equipment.

As they did when they announced the Autonomy Project’s tractor and grain cart application two weeks ago, Kinze executives said they have spent the last two years proving the concept of an operator-less system will work

“Only a few people in the company were even aware we were working on this until a few days ago,” Brian McKown, chief operating officer at Kinze, told editors participating in a teleconference. “Our marketing people have just started working on how to commercialize that concept.”

As he did at the earlier unveiling at Kinze’s dealer meeting in Williamsburg, Iowa, McKown said the new autonomous grain cart and planter operations will be for field use only. “We do not intend for this system to be operated on the public roads,” he noted.

To begin with on the new system, the grower loads a field map into the global positioning system including field boundaries and any predesigned non-field areas such as waterways. After the grower takes the tractor to the field and identifies which field it is positioned in, the system generates the most efficient method to plant the field.

At that point, the system then positions the tractor and planter at a designated starting point and begins planting until it encounters an obstacle. Grower intervention is required to maneuver around unplanned obstacles.

If a planter unit stops up, or the planter runs out of seed or fertilizer, the operator must clear the obstruction and refill the hopper units and fertilizer tanks, McKown said.

As a project more than two years in the making, Kinze performed extensive obstacle detection testing to ensure the accuracy and safety of the autonomous equipment. Beginning in a laboratory environment and then in the field, Kinze engineers simulated real-world scenarios to ensure the equipment would detect objects often encountered in the field, such as fence posts, stand pipes, farm animals and other vehicles.

The technology was originally developed in a laboratory setting using computer simulation. Kinze engineers partnered with Jaybridge Robotics, a firm in Cambridge, Mass., to bring that technology from the lab to the field, and to test and refine the work.

In addition to planting, the Kinze Autonomy Project could be used to do a variety of other tasks, including nourishing, maintaining and harvesting crops.

To see a video of the autonomous planter in operation, click on



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