Irish Examiner - Farming - - TECHNOLOGY FOCUS - Stephen Cado­gan

To cre­ate trac­tion for a trac­tor to pull an im­ple­ment, the trac­tor must be very heavy, or add bal­last, and this rep­re­sents a waste of horse power, and in­ef­fi­cient power trans­fer. A sig­nif­i­cant amount of en­ergy is be­ing used sim­ply to move the trac­tor.

That’s the rea­son­ing be­hind the Dot Power Plat­form, known as DOT, un­veiled last week in Canada.

It’s the lat­est al­ter­na­tive to the conventional trac­tor. The Dot Power Plat­form is a com­pact unit, which achieves ef­fi­cient power trans­fer be­cause the im­ple­ment weight is in­te­grated with the power unit. Power for the ma­chine comes from a 4.5-litre, turbo charged, 163 horse power Cum­mins diesel en­gine. It drives four hy­drauli­cally pow­ered in­de­pen­dent wheels, which are guided by elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled steer­ing through the field on a pre­de­ter­mined path.

First, the plat­form moves into po­si­tion for its four lift­points to lift an im­ple­ment di­rectly onto DOT’s U-shaped struc­ture, en­abling DOT and the im­ple­ment to be­come one unit. This is done with­out a driver, or it can be re­motely con­trolled. So a trac­tor cab is not nec­es­sary.

DOT is 3.61 me­tres wide, with a trans­port length of 5.53m, and stands 3.4m high. It weighs 3,855 kg.

It was on show last week in the Ag in Mo­tion event in Saskatchewan, Canada. The pro­to­type ver­sion is al­ready pow­er­ing a 9m seeder, an 18.29m sprayer with a 3,785 litre tank, a 12.5m land roller, or a 17,620 litre grain cart, on Cana­dian re­search farm fields.

DOT can travel at up to 12 miles per hour (19.3 km/ hour). Im­ple­ments made for the Dot Power Plat­form will be as much as 20% cheaper be­cause they don’t need axles, hubs, tyres, hitches, or fold­ing mech­a­nisms. The Dot Power Plat­form it­self will be priced about the same as a conventional trac­tor of sim­i­lar horse­power.

Its wheels are ca­pa­ble of piv­ot­ing, al­low­ing the power plat­form to move in ei­ther a wide field po­si­tion or nar­row trans­port ori­en­ta­tion. DOT is be­ing built by SeedMaster Man­u­fac­tur­ing, near Regina, Saskatchewan. Norbert Beau­jot is the farmer/en­gi­neer/in­ven­tor be­hind this new ap­proach to au­ton­o­mous power.

He says it takes about 10 sec­onds for Dot to con­nect to an im­ple­ment, and a lit­tle more time to hook up the hy­draulic and elec­tri­cal con­nec­tions. Dot takes the au­ton­o­mous trac­tor con­cept away from the ex­ist­ing idea of a draw­bar trac­tion unit (trac­tor) pulling or push­ing im­ple­ments through a field. Beau­jot says it is time to bring au­ton­omy to farm equip­ment, now that less labour is avail­able for agri­cul­ture.

Just as ro­botic milk­ers al­low the dairy farmer con­cen­trate more on man­ag­ing the over­all op­er­a­tion of the farm, DOT com­pletes tasks au­tonomously and frees up the farmer.

It comes from Western Canada’s large prairie fields, where au­ton­omy is eas­ier to im­ple­ment, but Beau­jot says it will be scal­able up and down for larger and smaller farms, and can also have ap­pli­ca­tions in in­dus­tries such as con­struc­tion and min­ing.

The wheels are built to sup­port up to 18,143 kg of im­ple­ments.

It can be run in full au­ton­o­mous mode in fields, guided by po­si­tional in­for­ma­tion from its RTK GPS re­ceiver, or by re­mote con­trol in yards or equip­ment sheds (us­ing a tablet com­puter that com­mu­ni­cates through a lo­cal area net­work).

DOT’s mul­ti­ple ob­ject de­tec­tion sen­sors en­sure safe op­er­a­tion, and if it de­vi­ates from its pre­scribed route, DOT will au­to­mat­i­cally shut down. DOT will send alerts to the farmer if it is un­sure how to pro­ceed.

For man­ual shut­downs, there are mul­ti­ple emer­gency stop but­tons on the Plat­form and on re­motes.

In the field, DOT con­tin­u­ously mon­i­tors in­di­vid­ual wheel slip­page to re­duce the po­ten­tial for get­ting stuck in mud.

DOT also has the usual trac­tor sen­sors for en­gine, hy­draulic pres­sure, etc.

For more in­for­ma­tion (in­clud­ing videos) on the tech­nol­ogy, visit the see­ web­site.

The shape of things to come: the Dot Power Plat­form was on show last week in the Ag in Mo­tion event in Saskatchewan, Canada. Left, car­ry­ing a 9m seed drill trans­port ori­en­ta­tion, ready to pivot into the field work­ing po­si­tion.

Trac­tor of the fu­ture? The au­ton­o­mous or re­mote con­trolled Dot Power Plat­form, ready to move into po­si­tion to pick up an im­ple­ment.

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