Raven Industries buys autonomous DOT technology

Autonomous farming platform DOT has found its own path with a new partner. Raven Industries has acquired controlling interest in the DOT with Seedmaster’s Norbert Beaujot of Regina retaining the balance of the ownership.

The move will give DOT access to greater capital through the publicly traded Raven, as well as to the South Dakota company’s engineering and technology experience.

Rob Saik of DOT said the move was necessary for the fledgling autonomous agricultural system at this point in its history.

“Raven technology has been part of DOT since the beginning,” he said.

“The guidance and the (user interface) are Raven, and (Raven) has a lot more technology that they will bring to the platform.”

The Sioux Falls business had been working toward autonomous agricultural approaches as part of its strategic growth plan, and the DOT platform will form a large portion of that program. Raven has a long history in the steering, machine guidance and control technology area.

Norbert Beaujot created DOT using his experience farming and from developing the reduced tillage cropping systems that helped build his company, Seedmaster.

Beaujot feels autonomous farming equipment is the next logical step in the evolution of agriculture. It allows improved precision of site specific farming approaches, producing greater farm margins through appropriate application of inputs and water use and with greater fuel efficiency. As well, the system helps meet the shortage of skilled farm labour.

The NASDAQ-traded Raven (RAVN) investment in DOT Technology Corp. will be used to fund commercialization of the system, said Saik about the diesel-powered, U-shaped tool carrier and its implements.

“We’ve field-tested the technology with farmers. We have orders for machines to be delivered this spring. It’s time to take the next step,” said Saik about the involvement of Raven with the DOT platform, which now supports seeding, planting, fertilizer spreading and sprayer tools.

Norbert Beaujot, the founder of SeedMaster, has welcomed a new investor to secure the future of the DOT autonomous farming system. Raven will take up a majority shareholder position in the company. | Michael Raine photo

Raven’s technology also includes tools that allow machines to be situationally aware, guided by crop rows and integrated tools that recognize and identify plant presence. Using LiDAR and a variety of other sensors, the Raven engineering will be used to enhance DOT’s abilities. Research at the University of Alberta’s Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute is also underway to bring artificial intelligence into the DOT platform.

Saik said the other benefit of Raven’s investment in DOT is the additional credibility that the company brings for short-line machinery manufacturers looking to build field tools for the autonomous platform.

“It will let them know that DOT will have the staying power needed to support their short-line tool developments,” Saik said.

“Overall, this is going to accelerate DOT’s development and bring it to a wider market sooner.”

For the near future the company plans to focus on sales to broad-acre agriculture in Western Canada, but the recently debuted 12-row planter at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Ontario will be running in southern Manitoba this season as that tool develops.

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