Demonstration of functional driverless tractor for Australian horticulture (AS17002)
What's it all about?
This investment is assessing the reliability, accuracy and cost-effectiveness of driverless tractor technology across a number of almond orchards in Australia, including the levy-funded Almond Centre of Excellence experimental and demonstration orchard (AL19000). This research will provide horticultural growers with the information they need to make investment decisions in the future on orchard technology such as driverless tractors.
The project team will assess the day-to-day performance of the driverless tractor over an extended period to measure its consistency and reliability under a range of duties and orchard conditions.
Almond orchard practices are common to many crops, so demonstration days will also be held for other industries such as olive, citrus and table grape.
The project is assessing the performance of equipment that provides an autonomous system for tractors to operate in horticultural orchards. This project provides a demonstration of autonomous technologies/equipment in horticulture providing the momentum to adopt this step-change technology on-farm. The research team has worked through a range of options and determined that the most appropriate technology was provided by AME Group - GOtrack (you can find out more at https://amegroup.com.au/go-track).
The project team report progress in the following areas:
- The Almond Board of Australia has determined that reliable connectivity is essential to demonstrate the effectiveness of autonomous equipment and decided that the most appropriate coverage will be sourced through Connected Farms (you can find out more at www.connectedfarms.com.au).
- A GOtrack system was purchased and delivered to the ACE Orchard in March 2023 with systems checks and training being undertaken for key farm personnel.
- Now that a fully functioning system is operational at the ACE Orchard more videos, field days and presentations will be possible and best management practice can be captured with on-farm learnings and experience.
- A GOtrack System report covers information regarding ease of programming; accuracy of operations across a range of implements; and reliability as well as other information growers may want to know before taking on a subscription with AME Group. The GOtrack System report will be further refined to capture these learnings.
- Investment has been made into upgrading the connectivity at the ACE Orchard by purchasing a ‘Connected Farms’ 25m tower that uses LTE Band 28 (700MHZ) to ensure rich coverage across the orchard and tree mid-rows. This is the same system employed by the orchard in Victoria using GUSS autonomous sprayer. The tower has been fabricated and delivered to site and foundations are ready for installation. It is expected to be functional by the end of April 2023.
- Extension activities for the driverless tractor, provides an overview of the extension activities undertaken in the last 12 months including four Field Days convened by the ABA in each the Sunraysia, Riverland and Riverina regions including the ACE orchard.
- While some Video footage of the tractor operating has been captured during field day demonstrations additional footage will be captured now that the fully function GOtrack System is available at the ACE Orchard. This footage will be used to promote the use of driverless tractors to other industries.
- Additional field days, videos and articles will be produced extending to other industries now that a fully functional GOtrack System is available at the ACE Orchard.
The project is assessing the performance of equipment that provides an autonomous system for a tractor to operate, whilst traversing the orchard in programmed tasks. The purpose of this is to provide a demonstration of autonomous technologies and equipment in horticulture and in turn, create momentum so this innovative technology will be adopted.
Since the previous reporting period, where the compliance and regulatory issues were assessed and the decision to continue with the project was agreed, the Almond Board of Australia (ABA) has worked through a range of options, determining the most appropriate technology can be provided by AME Group - Go Track.
The ABA has also recognised that the use of autonomous equipment within the industry has a total reliance on reliable connectivity. However, reliable connectivity is not prevalent in several grower districts, including the location of its own ACE orchard. To demonstrate the effectiveness of autonomous equipment, it is essential to provide reliable localised connectivity. The project’s investigations have determined that the most effective coverage will be sourced through ConnectedFarms.
Two noteworthy outputs that have recently been delivered to support the project’s milestones, are a “Demonstration Day”, that was conducted on 9 February 2022 at the Loxton experimental farm, and a “Mildura Agtech Summit” demonstration in Sunraysia on 5 to 6 May 2022 in Sunraysia, NSW.