Dozens of farmers gasped and pointed Wednesday as they watched a tractor move around a field near Langham, Sask. — with no driver.
The tractor attached in seconds to a sprayer, then to a seeder and other equipment. Operator Owen Kinch steered it by remote control, at times while resting in a chair under an umbrella.
It's the brainchild of Regina-area inventor Norbert Beaujot. He unveiled it to the large crowd this week at the Ag in Motion farm technology show north of Saskatoon. The next stop is Germany, host of the world's largest agricultural exhibit.
"Farmers were here from North Battleford a few minutes ago and they said, 'You're starting a revolution.' I hadn't thought of it that way," Beaujot said.
Beaujot's main business, Seed Master, was already successful, but the 69-year-old said he wanted to keep trying new things.
'It's exciting and scary.' - Ivan Bartel, farmer
"In a way, everything I've done in my life has led up to this because of my background and knowledge. I semi-retired a few years ago. When I came up with this concept, I figured I gotta do it," he said.
Beaujot expects to have it in select fields next year in the Regina area.
He'll monitor performance and then decide when to make it more widely available.
He hopes the innovation will make farming easier and more profitable for the next generation. He said it will save time and labour costs. It will also be cheaper than a conventional tractor, which requires "extras" like seats, steering wheels and cup holders.
Most farmers seemed impressed. Drake, Sask.-area grain farmer Ivan Bartel said he's seen technological change accelerating on farms in the past decade. He and others now use GPS, weather data and precision seeding techniques. The driverless tractor is the next step.
"It's exciting and scary. I'm used to going out in the field," Bartel said.
Bartel said his 28-year-old son farms their 5,000-acre operation. He said the younger generation is more likely to jump on these innovations.
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