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Autonomous Equipment On the Olds College Smart Farm

Earlier this spring, Olds College was excited to announce it was the only post-secondary institution in the world to deploy the fully autonomous DOT Power Platform as a teaching and research tool on the College’s Smart Farm. This next generation of ag-technology gives Olds College students one-of-a-kind learning opportunities on commercially available field-scale robotics technology on the College’s Smart Farm.

Over the last couple of months, the College has been operating DOT autonomous equipment for spraying, seeding and applying nutrients. Part of a three year Smart Farm research project, the College will collect information and observations to understand the benefits and challenges of autonomous agricultural equipment. The project will also measure the economic and environmental footprint of autonomous agricultural equipment.

“We are very excited to be using autonomous equipment on the Smart Farm,” comments Dr. Joy Agnew, Associate Vice President, Applied Research, Olds College. “Our goal is to demonstrate how this leading edge technology works and provide research results for producers to use to make informed decisions about how to incorporate this technology into their own operations. And of course, our students will also benefit from working with and understanding autonomous technology.”

The College is also collaborating with early adopter producers, Pattison Farms and local producer Carlson Ag, to collect data on as many acres as possible. Pattison Farms, located in Lemberg, Saskatchewan is operating their own DOT system and sharing the
data with the College.

Carlson Ag, located near Torrington, Alberta is working with the College’s Smart Farm team to operate the College’s DOT equipment, including the seeder, sprayer, and spreader. For the duration of the 2020 growing season, operations will be focused
on in-season spraying of herbicide and potentially fungicide, along potentially some top dressing with the spreader.

"We are honored to work with Olds College and Pattison Liquid Systems in testing and implementing this new technology," comments Joshua Carlson, Carlson Ag. "As early adopters we are excited to grow and support the DOT platform and are having a great cooperative operating experience. It's exciting seeing the future in agriculture.”

The College has been using the DOT A-U1 mobile diesel power platform, along with the DOT Seeder-SeedMaster Ultra DSR, DOT Sprayer-Pattison Connect, and the DOT-ready New Leader NL5000 nutrient applicator. Diverting from the model of a high-
capacity tractor as a power-unit, the DOT power platform is designed for flexibility, efficiency, and scalability to help both small and large farms increase their productivity.

“Pattison Liquid Systems is extremely excited about the relationship established with Olds College,” comments Tim Pattison, Connect Project Lead, Connect by Pattison. “Starting in the 2020 planting season our Connect PLU S120 Dot Ready Sprayer will be used by the College for crop maintenance. This not only brings the excitement of showcasing our sprayer technology on an autonomous platform, but gives us the chance to complete detailed application research, demonstrating the efficiencies and
overall benefits of our equipment and autonomous farming as a whole.”

Mr. Pattison adds, “as a producer we feel confident heading into this spring seeding season. By adding our autonomous fleet to our farming operation, we will be able to alleviate some of the pressure placed on the other equipment and operators while simultaneously being able to increase our precision and efficiency.”

The DOT power platform and DOT-ready implements represent a significant first-step towards autonomous commercial agricultural operations. Thanks to research investments from Western Economic Diversification Canada and Canada Foundation for Innovation, together with private partners, such as Raven Applied Technology, Olds College has been able to deploy the full DOT Power Platform since the beginning of spring 2020.

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