All the big manufacturers are forging ahead with digital technology and there is a pattern of gradual steps towards full automation emerging, rather than it arriving all in one big bang.

Case is the latest to showcase what it is planning and how it sees farming developing in alliance with I.T over the next few years.

Launched in Phoenix

Earlier this month, the company held a two-day event at Phoenix, Arizona, to introduce three different concepts it is developing.

They are all based on automating the present tractor, a top down approach, unlike field robots which signify a rethink of the process from the base upwards.

These these two philosophies are not incompatible and there is some indication of them edging closer together.

Autonomy case tractor
The latest systems from Case were put on display in Arizona earlier this month

Case’s parent company, CNH, purchased a 10% share in Stout Industrial Technology earlier this month, a young company that uses plant recognition software to identify and remove individual weeds.

This approach is more normally associated with field robotics, but Stout Industrial Technology has it working on a tractor-mounted implement and it is, claims the company, capable of clearing 1ac-2ac/hr.

Automating the tractor

Back at the tractor level, Case has announced driverless tillage software, driver assist software and an electric tractor.

The tillage software is said to produce “site-specific tillage prescriptions to deliver the right soil management practice for every inch of soil”.

Quite what this means in practice is not immediately clear, but it appears that the soil’s physical qualities are somehow assessed and the results plotted on to a field map.

Having this information will then allow following tillage implements to adjust themselves to accommodate the variation in soil quality across the mapped area.

Partnered technology

The driver assist software is more straightforward in that it allows a combine driver to take control over a tractor and trailer running alongside, increasing the efficiency of the unloading operation and reducing spillage.

Monarch Tractors already produces its own machine in California

The electric tractor prototype, which will eventually be available in Case colours, will feature a certain degree of autonomy as a result of CNH’s collaboration with Monarch Tractor.