John Deere has revealed for the second time this year a piece of automated planter technology important to what will likely become, in the not-too-distant future, part of its autonomous planting system: FurrowVision.
The announcement follows Deere's unveiling of its ExactShot technology at the annual CES technology event in Las Vegas in January. ExactShot is a performance upgrade, an automation that applies starter fertilizer only to the seed, not the entire seed trench as is current practice. Deere estimates ExactShot reduces the use of starter by 60%.
Deere has now rolled out its next planter performance upgrade, FurrowVision. This is a camera-and-laser package mounted to look down into the furrow, recording images of the seed and residue. The FurrowVision performance upgrade kit includes three 3D cameras and wiring.
"You're going to mount them onto three row units on your planter, one in each section," said Jordan Lang, marketing director, performance upgrades at Deere. "And then in the cab via display, you're going to see the imagery that is taken from those cameras in real time. You're going to get (seed) depth and see the quality of the furrow. How good is your seed-to-soil contact? How much trash or debris do you have in the furrow? Then, you can make adjustments, (for example), adjust your row cleaners as needed."
Deere has hinted at a FurrowVision-type system in the past -- a visioning system that today looks at seed placement and residue but in the future may also look at soil structure, soil type, make evaluations of moisture or condensation, and adjust seed depth or seed positioning based on obstructions in the trench. Deere would not comment during an interview Tuesday on capabilities that may be in their pipeline.
Deere classifies FurrowVision and ExactShot as performance upgrades.
"We're using upgrades to take technology to the market fast," Lang said. "When a technology is ready to go, it's been tested, it's ready to roll (and) we can install it on an embedded base of machines, whether it be a used machine that customer has, or even a new machine. We can make that technology more readily available, rather than waiting a couple of years for a factory to be able to install it."
FurrowVision creates time for farmers to perform other, perhaps more crucial, activities. Instead of periodically leaving the cab of the planting tractor to dig up seed to check depth, soil contact and the rest, the operator, watching laser-measured images projected onto a tablet in the cab, can make planting adjustments on the go. "You're getting information that helps (the operator)," Lang said. "You've got confirmation that seeds (are) going into the trench, and you can keep planting at 10 miles an hour. You make decisions in real time."
FurrowVision borrows a bit from Deere's ActiveVision technology for combines.
"It's very similar to that where you get (with ActiveVision) -- real-time imagery at a very quick rate. You can freeze it and go back to see still images as well," Lang said.
ActiveVision gives farmers a view inside the combine's grain tank to observe the condition of harvested grain. That technology is fueled by proprietary algorithms and provides farmers with information to make harvest quality decisions in the moment.
FurrowVision is one of the foundational technologies Deere will use as it moves to build a planter operating as or within an autonomous system, Lang said.
Automated systems run within a restricted set of parameters in a kind of data-powered loop. Autonomous systems learn and adapt to the environments within which they work, using tools such as camera visioning and machine learning; a smart technology evolution where decision-making engines pick and choose (and adapt) from among automated systems.
"The ability to have this technology on the planter that allows someone to make adjustments (remotely), it is technology like this that will be foundational for that," Lang said.
FurrowVision and ExactShot build on other systems, for examples Deere's ExactEmerge brush belt. The predictability of seed movement down to the furrow by way of the belt is important to the timing that makes ExactShot work.
FurrowVision cannot now be used in tandem with ExactShot.
"Currently, they are not compatible," Lang said. "That's based on the fact that they go into the same location under the row unit. There just isn't enough room."
FurrowVision will be available for limited release in Deere's model-year 2024, starting in June. Deere has released no details on pricing.
Dan Miller can be reached at email@example.com
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