Autonomous Tractors are Transforming Agriculture

A new way to bring farming into the 21st century.

Autonomous tractor working in a green tea field.

(Suwin /

When people think of farming today, they usually picture a tractor in the fields and horses or oxen. That’s because powered tractors (pulling plows) that relied on engines and not animals revolutionized  farming in the late 1800s. Now a new type of tractor could do the same in the 21 st century.

Agriculture has been changing dramatically in the last few decades according to the blog Field Bee. This push for innovation is fed by the need to produce larger amounts of food for a growing world population. Autonomous – self driving –   tractors may be the key to solving this challenge.

Benefits of Automation
Driverless tractors can be used to carry out labor intensive farming while allowing farmers to do other work. A big plus is that it can increase crop yields while reducing costs because the automated machines can harvest 24/7, can work in all weather conditions, and can minimize worker’s fatigue.

Part of the push for automation is a shortage of farmworkers due to the coronavirus pandemic and by people’s desire to have higher paying jobs with better work conditions. Farm owners are competing against companies like Amazon and restaurants that are raising wages to attract workers according to AP News.

“It’s a significant investment for a small business owner,”  David Swartz, assistant director for animal systems programs at Penn State Extension told AP News. “But now with labor shortages and the inflation in the hourly wages that have to be paid in order to be competitive, all of a sudden automation seems like a more reasonable decision.”

Many believe the time is ripe for an autonomous revolution because robotics is already in use in agriculture according to Robotics Business Review. For some people, it’s an issue of safety but since the tractors work in fields and not busy roadways, they will catch on quicker than autonomous cars.

Blue and White Robotics Autonomous Farms
One company that is working to bring autonomous tractors into mainstream farming is Blue and White Robotics, an Israeli Agri-tech company that was founded in 2017. The company’s mission is to make a fully autonomous farm, that includes tractors.

The company unveiled an autonomous tractor kit in February 2021 that can be installed on any existing tractor according to CTech. The kit includes camera obstacle detection, speed controls, a pressure sensitive bumper, as well as an anti-collision system.

Blue and White’s system can mow, spray, and disk crops in orchards and vineyards and is being used by West Coast growers in the US. It may soon be coming to a farm near you.

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