Iowa Startup Develops Autonomous Grain Cart System, “AutoCart”

A recent Star Tribune article reported that, “Driverless tractors have long been on the cusp, but they are still not widely used, bogged down by safety concerns, legal obstacles, the difficulties of offering technical support to a large number of farmers using a single product, and lingering doubts about the business case.”

The article stated that, “At the Farm Progress Show in August, the nation’s largest farm trade show, one of the exhibitors was Smart Ag, an Iowa startup that is commercializing a system that allows a farmer, from a combine, to summon an autonomous tractor pulling a grain cart. The product, called AutoCart, costs about $40,000.

Colin Hurd, the founder of Smart Ag, said transferring harvested grain from the combine to a grain cart is one of the key bottlenecks in farming. It’s tough to find someone to drive that extra tractor. Some kids come back from college to help. Retired neighbors drive the tractor. Spouses take days off work.”

The article added that, “AutoCart consists of software and hardware that allows the farmer to summon a tractor pulling a grain cart, and allows the tractor to drive itself into position alongside the combine and stay there as the combine keeps moving and empties grain into the cart. It also includes sensors that can spot obstacles and people and avoid them. The system works with John Deere 8000 series tractors. Five AutoCarts have been installed. Ten dealers have signed up to sell the system.”

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