Dot Technology has named Rob Saik chief executive officer of Dot Ready Retail—the distribution arm of the autonomous farming vehicle startup.
The DOT power platform is a U-shaped, diesel-powered, hydraulically driven platform designed to be equipped with seeding implements as well as others designed to be “DOT-Ready”. Implements are mounted to the platform via four hydraulic lift arms. The company is based Saskatchewan, led by CEO Leah Olson-Friesen and was founded by founder and president of SeedMaster, Norbert Beaujot.
In 2019, the company will have three to six units out for full-scale testing on farms in a close radius of Regina, Saskatchewan. Before the seeding season, the company will conduct testing at a proving ground at the University of Arizona as well as a unit at its headquarters, “running across the tundra all winter long” as Saik explains. All of this testing is propelling the company closer to commercialization.
“When it comes to distribution of these units, it’s a big white board right now,” Saik says. “But we know we aren’t going to do the distribution of DOT in the traditional way to farmers like it’s been done in the past. Most of the support needed will be on the technical side—it’s about learning how to make your farm DOT-ready.”
Saik explains “DOT-ready” farms will be geo-fenced for autonomous operation, have a sound agronomic program for the seeding and crop protection applications, and have farmers who are ready to adopt and learn this new technology. And he sees DOT as being able to open new agronomic opportunities such as night-spraying, in-season foliar nutrition, advances with VRT seeding, and more.
Saik is making the transition to Dot after completing the sale of Agri-Trend and Agri-Data to Trimble. His background is being an agronomist and an entrepreneur as well as having an interest in a farming operation in Uganda and organizing the PowerFARM peer group for farmers.
“I’m excited for this opportunity—it takes agronomy, soil data management and sensory management and gives agriculture another springboard,” he says. He sees Dot generating more interest in autonomy because of a lower cost per machine than other alternatives as well as stirring up interest from younger generations to engage with farming.
There will be a DOT demo day on March 27 at the University of Arizona Maricopa.
“The glimpses from green and red, have mainly been around headless horsemen---a tractor without a cab but still has an hitch pin and the inherent issues of a tractors,” he says. “DOT is one platform that can hook up to multiple implements—which drops the cost significantly. And with DOT, you create excitement around farming because the robots are interesting to young people.”