A Look at AGCO's Autonomous Grain Cart

AGCO Gives Up-Close Look at Its New Autonomous Grain Cart Retrofit Technology

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Initially, AGCO is mounting its autonomous grain cart retrofit to one of its Fendt tractor models and to Deere's 8R tractor. See here the white-colored retrofit mounted to the top of a Deere 8R tractor. Autonomous retrofits for additional tractor brands will be soon coming. (DTN photo by Dan Miller)

SALINA, Kan. (DTN) -- AGCO is introducing for 2025 an autonomous tractor and grain cart harvest solution.

The manufacturer of Fendt, Massey Ferguson and Valtra equipment lines demonstrated the grain cart retrofit system during its AGCO Tech Day last week in Salina, Kansas. It also fielded an autonomous tillage retrofit.

(See a video, https://www.dtnpf.com/…, showing AGCO's autonomous tractor-grain cart and combine operations. Notice that AGCO is running two carts autonomously at the 01:50 mark.)

AGCO has named the autonomous tractor-grain cart retrofit kits "OutRun."

Initially, OutRun will operate with a yet-to-be-named Fendt tractor model and John Deere's 8R tractor, with compatible 8R models going back to 2014. AGCO also is preparing to build autonomous retrofits compatible with other tractor brands, from the most current models back to previous model years. AGCO representatives did not disclose a timeline for the release of additional tractor retrofits.

The manufacturer will be running 10 tractor and grain cart packages this fall in several Midwest states, including Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

The retrofit units are mounted to the tops of tractor cabs (see the white unit atop the Deere 8R in the accompanying photo). These include the sensing and navigating capabilities needed for autonomous operations. AGCO expects OutRun retrofits will be installed in roughly half a day.

Doppler radar and Lidar provide object movement and detection. Doppler radar measures the velocity of an object. Lidar, or light detection and ranging, uses pulsed lasers to measure distance.

Initially, the grain cart retrofits will control a single grain cart, the unit guided by the combine operator with a tablet.

AGCO is promising soon an upgraded autonomous retrofit enabled to manage multiple tractor-carts, with each unit controlled from the cab of the combine by the operator.

"We think autonomy will add value to the crop cycle," said Dinen Subramaniam, product and marketing manager, AGCO PTx Trimble.

Subramaniam said there are estimates that a third of all Midwest acres are harvested late and are losing up to 10% of their value. "We need to help farmers tighten that harvest," he said. "When the crop is at its peak, we have to be ready to harvest."

Autonomous machines help farmers manage the labor issues that contribute to harvesting delays. Technology also doesn't get tired. It should be more accurate and efficient than a 100% human operation.

AGCO's autonomous tractor retrofit does not require a constant data connection while operating. The two pieces of equipment work offline --connecting locally.

So-called "missions" are pre-planned by marking field boundaries and with a brief period of calibration with the existing crop.

Autonomous grain cart operations are described in three steps:

1. The combine operator stages the cart, selecting a location and direction of movement.

2. The operator calls for the cart. The tractor and cart move toward the combine, calculating the most efficient path, moving around objects and around unharvested crops. The tractor-cart adjusts to the speed of the combine. When the combine is done unloading its grain, the cart can be ordered to hold its place in the field, waiting for the next unload.

3. The full cart is sent to the unloading area.

During the demonstrations at Salina, the linkup between combine and tractor-grain carts was without fault. More interesting was that AGCO was running a second automated cart, which was also controlled by the combine operator. While one was the loading, the second was being staged.

AGCO doesn't say when a multiple-cart upgrade will be available. But it promises it won't be long.

AGCO also is not disclosing its pricing structure, saying instead it plans to sell "active task hours" to operators. Currently, that means operators will be paying for autonomous hours as needed, purchased as buckets of a defined number of hours or purchased as a package with unlimited autonomous hours.

For a related story, go to: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Dan Miller can be reached at dan.miller@dtn.com

Follow him on social platform X @DMillerPF

Dan Miller