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Funding accelerates autonomous systems

Canadians haven’t been lagging when it comes to developing autonomous technology for agriculture.

Winnipeg-based JCA Technologies, which was acquired by Agco in May 2022, is just one example of a cutting-edge technology company born in this country.

In 2019, the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN) was created, with funding from the federal government, to help Canadian innovators continue to develop new technologies. The organization has helped fund 35 projects to the tune of $32 million.

Overall, the total value of the combined public and private investment in those projects reaches $100 million.

One of those projects belongs to Alberta-based Mojow Autonomous Solutions, which is working to develop a self-driving, autonomous operating system for tractors that will allow a much higher level of machine operation than just running up and down pre-mapped guidance lines.

It will give a tractor the ability to perform several other functions, such as getting to a field on its own and transitioning the implement from transport to field positions

“We see them as critical in autonomy, not just going back and forth in a straight line without any perception of what’s going on,” said Owen Kinch, president and co-founder of Mojow.

“Full autonomy from the customer’s work yard, accessing the roads to the fields, getting into the fields through the appropriate entrances, transitioning equipment safely from transport position to the field position and getting the job done without any prior mapping or knowledge of the field, identifying areas to avoid, detecting boundaries and field wetness. And then going on to the next field or going home at the end of the day, we’re working on all those pieces today.”

Creating those capabilities seems like a pretty tall order, and they go beyond many parameters of autonomous systems being released to the market now.

“Ultimately, we’re a computer vision company and we’re focusing on the abilities to see the environment, react and operate in a timely fashion,” Kinch said.

“That’s the key differentiator between us and anything else in the market today; our ability to adapt to a changing environment. Those are the pieces we’re working on with the CAAIN funding.”

The network has allocated $682,028 to Mojow’s development project, which has a total estimated cost of just over $2.2 million.

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