Kinze Manufacturing, Inc. has continued its progress on Kinze Autonomy, refining the capabilities of its groundbreaking autonomous row-crop solution and undertaking release previews on three large Illinois farms this harvest season. The system was showcased for media or the first time at a farm in Monmouth, Ill.
As the world’s first large-scale, truly autonomous row-crop solution, Kinze’s autonomous system is capable of completing many tasks with minimal direct human input, including planting, nourishing, maintaining and harvesting crops. Farmers at the event demonstrated the system’s harvesting capabilities, showcasing four primary modes of operation:
- Follow: The autonomous grain cart system follows the combine through the field at a safe distance.
- Unload: When the combine operator is ready to unload the grain into the cart, they press the “Unload” button on their tablet. The autonomous grain cart system then speeds up and pulls alongside the combine, matching its speed to the combine’s and positioning the cart under the combine unload auger. The combine operator can then start filling the cart.
- Park: After unloading, the combine operator can instruct the autonomous grain cart system to return to the edge of the field. From there, the cart can be unloaded into a semi-trailer for the grain to be hauled away from the field.
- Idle: When instructed, the system will come to a controlled stop at its current location and wait for further instruction.
“This system has been a long time in the making and we are excited to share it with the farming community,” said Susanne Kinzenbaw Veatch, Kinze vice president and chief marketing officer. “As farmers ourselves, we know how crucial it is to be productive during the short harvest season. With this solution, we can help farmers make the most of their harvest. ”
As farm communities shrink and farmers face increasing challenges finding skilled labor during the harvest season, Kinze Autonomy aims to help them work as efficiently as possible. The autonomous grain cart system allows farmers to keep their combine running during the brief harvest window without needing an extra person in the field to run the tractor and cart. Even better, the grain cart system never gets tired, and will operate as precisely at the end of the day as the beginning. For farmers who need to burn the midnight oil to get their harvest in, the autonomous grain cart is an able partner.
The technology for Kinze Autonomy was originally developed in a laboratory setting using computer simulation. Kinze engineers partnered with Jaybridge Robotics, a firm in Cambridge, Mass., to develop the autonomy software and to test and refine the system in the field. Since its debut last year, the product has been fine-tuned in a number of areas, with a focus on its real-time path planning software, which has the ability to dynamically determine the optimum path and avoid obstacles as they arise. Additionally, a tablet computer in the combine cab features a new user interface for the operator that allows him or her complete control of the system.
Safety has been a top priority since the inception of the system, and Kinze has performed extensive obstacle detection testing to ensure the accuracy and safety of the autonomous equipment. Beginning in a laboratory environment and continuing in the field, Kinze engineers simulated real-world scenarios to ensure the equipment would detect objects often encountered in the field, such as fence posts, stand pipes, farm animals and other vehicles. The result is an autonomous system with a very high level of obstacle detection and avoidance.