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John Deere’s new autonomous tractor is automating farming all over again



Agricultural jobs have been in decline for a long time, and now there’s more new tech on the block …


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During the first industrial revolution machines came and mechanised the agricultural industry, and in the USA alone this meant that the agricultural workforce which represented 41% of the total workforce was reduced to just 3%. And now, after the world’s first fully autonomous crop was planted and harvested, and the world’s first fully autonomous vertical farm was unveiled tractors, the machines that led the first revolution, are becoming self-driving after John Deere announced that after years in development its autonomous tractor is finally “production-ready.”


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Back in 2019, John Deere showed off its prototype and now says it’s ready for prime time, revealing that it intends to embark on large-scale production this year, with the driverless tractors being available to farmers before the end of the year.


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Elektrek calls it “a step into the future” as John Deere’s new vehicle will allow farmers to leave the cabs of their tractors after programming them. The “driving” is then managed by “six pairs of stereo cameras around the vehicle to help with object detection,” says Engadget, combined with GPS which “enables it to maintain its position within a geofence around an individual field.”


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Farmers simply drive it to the field, configure and swipe to start, then they’re free to leave it and monitor its progress on a mobile device. As part of a precision agriculture play he system’s even capable of gathering data as it works, like specific soil composition and so on, so it can tweak the algorithms for each application and field.


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John Deere’s fully autonomous 8R tractor will most certainly be a big benefit to some farmers, especially those contending with labour shortages, but not everyone is on board. According to Wired, the announcement has stirred debate over the role of AI in farming, specifically that it could ultimately give farmers less control over their own operations and lead to mass job redundancies.


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Said Kevin Kenney, an agricultural engineer quoted by Wired: “I’m all for innovation, and I think John Deere is a helluva company, but they’re trying to be the Facebook of farming.”

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