College students and researchers will use DOT autonomous equipment on their smart farm this year
This spring, the Olds College smart farm will use the autonomous DOT Power Platform to dive into the future of agricultural technology.
The college acquired the DOT platform with the assistance of a federal grant through the Western Economic Diversification Canada Regional Innovation Ecosystems program, said Dr. Joy Agnew, associate vice-president of applied research at Olds College.
The institution has the DOT A-U1 mobile diesel power platform. Researchers and students will use it with three implements: the DOT Sprayer-Pattison Connect, the DOT Seeder-SeedMaster Ultra DSR and the DOT-ready New Leader NL5000 nutrient applicator.
With the acquisition of this equipment, Olds College becomes the only post-secondary institution with this autonomous technology for use as a teaching and research tool. The DOT platform is part of a three-year research project aimed at learning the benefits and challenges of autonomous equipment.
“We're basically wanting to answer a lot of the questions that producers have about autonomous agriculture. Everyone is interested in DOT, everyone flocks to DOT at expos and farm shows, but no one is buying it because there's still a lot of questions around it. (Farmers wonder about) operational requirements, safety, security, reliability and robustness,” Agnew told Farms.com.
Some producers in the area have agreed also agreed to use the DOT platform on their fields.
And Pattison Liquid Systems, based in Saskatchewan, has partnered with the college to gather data.
Pattison Liquid Systems “are the developers of the sprayer implement for DOT but also have a DOT power platform and a sprayer, seeder and nutrient spreader. They will operate DOT on their farm on about 1,000 acres and collect data in the same way that we are. We'll have this larger pool of information to look at when assessing the economic and environmental benefits of autonomous ag operations,” said Agnew.
Students at Olds get the chance to work with the equipment in the spring and summer. Then, students will examine the data collected in the fall semester. They can work with the DOT platform when it’s not in use and receive hands-on lab experience.
“You don't see any autonomous in field equipment right now, but you will in three, five and ten years,” said Agnew. “We need to be on the leading edge of building the skill sets required to do this as optimally as possible. Everything around curriculum and learning and understanding and product development related to ag is more conventionally focused, so we wanted to be on the leading edge of this new era of autonomous.”
Photo credit: Olds College