(p. B1) The green tractor trundling across a Manitoba field with an empty cab looks like it’s on a collision course with Matt Reimer’s combine–until it neatly turns to pull alongside so he can pour freshly harvested wheat into its trailer.
The robot tractor isn’t a prototype or top-of-the-line showpiece. It’s an eight-year-old John Deere that the 30-year-old Mr. Reimer modified with drone parts, open-source software and a Microsoft Corp. tablet. All told, those items cost him around $8,000. He said that’s about how much he saved on wages for drivers helping with last year’s harvest.
Mr. Reimer’s alterations, which he hopes to replicate for other farmers this year, are part of a technology revolution sweeping North America’s breadbasket. Farmers, many of them self-taught, are building their own robotic equipment, satellite-navigation networks and mobile applications, moving their tinkering projects out of machine sheds and behind a computer screen.
This homespun hacking–which sometimes leapfrogs innovations by big equipment companies like Deere & Co. and navigation specialists like Trimble Navigation Ltd. –reflects dwindling farm incomes, the low price of electronic hardware and, sometimes, off-season boredom.
For the full story, see:
Jacob Bunge. “Farmers Harvest Homegrown Tech.”The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 19, 2016): B1-B2.
(Note: the online version of the story was last updated on May 2, 2016, and has the title “Farmers Reap New Tools From Their Own High-Tech Tinkering.”)