Driverless tractor takes Valley farmers into the future of harvesting

KINGS COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- This tractor is ready to take farmers and ranchers into the future without a driver.

The idea of a driverless tractor came from Connor Kingman while he was working on an autonomous robots project at UC Irvine.

"I was looking at that and thought that could be a pistachio orchard or a vineyard," he said. "Then I thought how difficult could it be to take the same technology that I am utilizing in school and apply it to real life and to put it on a bigger scale."

Kingman looked for companies to test out his idea.

But a connection with a local agriculture software company put the driverless tractor on the road to reality.

AG World looks to technology to advance agriculture in the Central Valley.

"It is our way to stay ahead as we continue to have different barriers and obstacles on how we are going to get this work done in the field and to make sure we can remain profitable," said Zach Sheely.

AG World then connected Kingman with Azcal Management Co. to create software. That software is on a device on the tractor, and an app; a farmer can set the driverless tractor into operation.

A demonstration took place in Kings County on Wednesday.

Kingman says it moves with the help of cameras and sensors based on acres of the farmland instead of GPS.

"With this, because it is just looking at the object and its environment around it with cameras and lights we don't have to have any infrastructure in place, and we don't have to have expensive GPS," he said.

Kingman says it will also help farmers save on labor cost and increase productivity.

The driverless tractor has a larger tank allowing it to run for 24 hours with better fuel efficiency.

"You are not accelerating too quickly. So you are using the least amount of fuel, and you are putting spray field applications at the right speed," he said. "So nothing is going wrong. Everything is optimized for perfection from an environmental standpoint and a cost-saving standpoint."

The driverless tractor will be ready to lease in the next few weeks.

Kingman says the cost depends on the number of acres of farmland.
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