Self-Driving Feeder to Debut at Agritechnica 2017

Self-Driving Feeder to Debut at Agritechnica 2017

Shown: Verti-Mix SF

Autonomous tractors and harvesters are being developed by major farm machinery manufacturers, but German firm Strautmann is hoping to strike out alone and corner the market with the Verti-Q, which is a feeder that will be able to operate entirely independently of a human driver.

The Verti-Q is set to appear for the first time during this month’s Agritechnica show, and it will reportedly be the first machine of its kind, putting its creators ahead of the curve.

This is not an entirely new product but rather combines the standard Verti-Mix SF wagon with IQ autonomous technology to enable self-driving operation without steep development costs. The result is that it can collect, transport and distribute feed without the need for direct control or even supervision.

At the core of the Verti-Q’s capabilities is a cutting-edge sat nav solution which provides incredibly precise positioning capabilities. It can determine the exact location of the machine to within a centimetre, which helps to ensure that it can work safely within a specific area.

This system is paired with an array of scanners and sensors that will allow it to collect fodder from a silo or other storage area without any complications arising.

All of this kit generates a lot of data from second to second, so Stratmann has had to add a powerful computer to make sense of it all in real time.

The manufacturer also claims that unlike some earlier autonomous vehicles, this model should be able to work productively whatever the weather, which is certainly an important concern for farmers looking to feed livestock during the colder, less predictable months of the year.

Because it is based on an existing feeder wagon, the Verti-Q still has a full-sized cab which can accommodate an operator and allow it to be used as normal when its autonomous capabilities are not required. This also helps when it comes to road-based transport and means that if any of the systems fail, it will not become entirely unusable.

Stratmann has been putting this feeder through its paces in a number of trials over the past few months and will be demonstrating the fruits of its labour at Agritechnica to a global audience. Further trials are scheduled for 2018, and it will take a little longer for a final production version to be launched, presumably at some point in 2019.

Combining autonomous operation with conventional driving capabilities and onboard controls makes sense at the moment, since this type of farm machinery has yet to be fully proven in day-to-day use and needs to win over customers as well as convincing operators that it is safe.

The Verti-Q will not be the only self-driving piece of equipment on show at Agritechnica 2017, but it will seemingly be the only feeder which falls into this category, as most other manufacturers have been putting their efforts into the creation of autonomous tractors and other heavy equipment built for agriculture.


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