Future of farming: University of Regina students create winning self-driving seeder

Three University of Regina engineering students’ hard work planted the seeds for a victory at the 2016 agBOT Challenge in Rockville, Ind. on May 7.

Engineering students look to future of farming

(Left to Right) Dean Kertai, Caleb Friedrick, Sam Dietrich and Joshua Friedrick with their award-winning automated seeder. (Dave Charrlin)

Three University of Regina engineering students' hard work planted the seeds for a victory at the 2016 agBOT Challenge in Rockville, Ind., on May 7.

Students Samuel Dietrich, Joshua Friedrick and Caleb Friedrick have placed first in the competition, taking home the grand prize of $64,795. 

Giving a glimpse into the future of farming technology, the team was tasked with creating the most efficient unmanned crop seeder planting in half-mile-long rows, while providing data back to the user through a mobile tracking antenna.

"It resembles a basic tractor with a seeding implement behind it," Dietrich said. "Basically a tractor driving by itself, there's nothing to tell it apart from (another tractor)."

The students were supervised by an associate professor in their faculty, Dr. Mehran Mehrandezh, and worked with the help of technologist Dean Kertai.

The students took this tractor and made it capable of seeding while driving itself. The bot would be controlled remotely by a farmer through software the students designed.

Growing up in Saskatchewan

The project was done as part of the students' final year Capstone engineering project.

"We enjoy industrial systems engineering, as it blends a lot of traditional engineering disciplines," Dietrich said.

"We wanted to do a project that represented this blend, bridging the gap between all these disciplines, and growing up in Saskatchewan, agriculture is huge here. This project has pretty big implications and could be huge."

The students were the only Canadian university representatives competing at the challenge against some of the top American engineering schools, such as Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and Virginia Tech University.

Sask. also takes 3rd place 

Another Saskatchewan representative, Nathan Muchowski, a U of R engineering alumnus, also was successful in the competition, taking home third place.

He was at the competition representing his family's farming operation from Odessa, Sask.

The U of R team sees their technology capable of being used in the agriculture industry and being applied across many different areas of farming.

"There was a lot of industry (at the competition) and interest from industry," Dietrich said.

"We'd just like to see this software implemented. All farmers are looking to increase their yields while decrease time required, and we think this can do that."