DOT put through its paces in Arizona fields

University of Arizona researcher works with the autonomous farming platform and DOT-ready implements this winter

MARICOPA, Ariz. — DOT and Connect have shifted staff to Arizona for the winter to continue research into robotic farming and to prepare to autonomously farm on a broad acre scale this year.

DOT is a Saskatchewan-built robotic platform designed to bring autonomous farming to broad acre grain production, and Connect is newly formed company that builds DOT-ready implements, including a sprayer and fertilizer coulter attachment.

Rick Pattison, president of Pattison Liquid Systems and the newly formed Connect, said the company will be conducting tests on DOT and the Connect 120-foot sprayer attachment in Maricopa from January to March.

“We’ll be doing testing on software development and really putting hours on the machine as it’s going to go into commercial production for next spring,” Pattison said.

“We will have engineers going back and forth through the three months, and we’ll have people here, both industry people and farmers, who will be coming to see DOT run in sunny Arizona.”

He said the companies will be collaborating with researchers at the University of Arizona who have expertise researching agriculture sensors.

Pedro Andrade, an associate professor and a precision ag specialist at the University of Arizona who has worked on navigation systems since the early 2000s, said he’s excited to be working with DOT and Connect.

“We are now seeing a new trend moving towards autonomous platforms,” he said.

“This is why we are now seeing how we can apply what we have learned in navigation systems, and what we have learned in sensor-based management, and how we can apply all that knowledge in autonomous platforms.”

He said they will test to see how DOT performs in the real conditions of Arizona, which are similar to a wide sector of agriculture in the southern United States.

“I’m an ag engineer myself, I’ve seen many small platforms for very specialized operations, and I think that is great technology,” Andrade said.

“But I’m excited that DOT is a high powered platform that can be used for heavy duty, high-energy type of operations like planting, like spraying, and even tillage.”

He said his goal is to increase the efficiency of farming in their setting, whether it’s better use of their labour pool, resources, climate, and natural resources.

“All that comes from integrating the information that we have in the system. DOT is a platform that offers a very unique setting to accomplish those goals,” Andrade said.

Leah Olson, chief executive officer of DOT, said the company recently sold its first DOT package, including a DOT powered platform and two DOT ready implements: a Seedmaster 30 foot single rank drill and a Connect S-120 sprayer.

A limited release of DOT is planned this year, and Olson said the company is suggesting farmers limit their acreage to 3,000 acres, or 20 percent of their seeded acres.

Pattison will use DOT on 1000 acres on his farm this summer, including a preseed burn down, seeding and post emergence spraying.

Connect and DOT are having a field day at the Maricopa research farm on March 27, and Pattison encourages anyone interested to attend.

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