FUTURE FOCUS: The crowd at Interpoma in Italy hear how driverless tractors and robots could be used on farms. Picture: Caitlin Jarvis

Farming’s high-tech future is driverless

DRIVERLESS tractors and remote piloted drones are the future of agriculture for South Tyrol as apple orchardists continue to chase the dream of improved productivity.

That was the message from South Tyrol’s Innovation Development Marketing (IDM) heard on the final day of Interpoma in Italy, last Saturday.

Michael Stauder, from IBM South Tyrol said technology would revolutionise the agriculture sector in South Tyrol and it would come in three key forms: electrification of engines, mechanical robot systems and the use of apps and smartphones and the digitalisation of farms.

Mechanical robot systems including drones and driverless tractors will be one way in which efficiency will be achieved in the agriculture sector in the future.

The machines will be able to safely conduct work that may be deemed unsafe for farmers and machines.

One example was driverless tractors which would be able to conduct menial work such as cutting grass without needing to be driven by a farmer.

This will leave the farmer free to conduct other tasks that need his or her more immediate attention.

Drones are now coming onto the market with spraying capabilities that are dust and weather resistant and can spray paddocks on pre-entered GPS information. 

Mr Stauder said machines such as the driverless tractors and drones would be controlled by the use of smartphone apps that help to keep the farmer informed.

Smartphone apps can alert farmers of imminent inclement weather patterns, detect when a tractor needs oil or needs repairing and can collect data from sensors to give information about soil health.

The development of sensor technology will also revolutionise the agriculture industry, with the introduction of robotic harvesters for forestry and horticulture.

Mr Stauder said sensors could be used to detect different types of products that were ready for harvest or could allow a self-driving tractor to detect an obstacle in its path.

Interpoma is the international trade show on the cultivation, storage and marketing of the apple.

Caitlin Jarvis was the guest of the Italian Trade Agency for Interpoma, held in Italy.