The global tractor space is witnessing newer innovations aimed at accelerating productivity of farmers. Among the futuristic technologies that are being talked about in the tractors space is driverless tractors. Team AutoTrac, a one-member team comprising Yogesh Nagar, a second-year Electrical Communication Engineering (ECE) student in the College of Engineering, Indore, has designed a ‘driverless tractor’ that will save labour cost, time as well as manual labour.
Farming is done in a traditional way in India and the overall business model of farmers hasn’t been to their liking. At times, long hours in the field can be physically demanding and to their frustration farmers are not making the kind of profit they would ideally desire for all the efforts they put in. Further, at times, farmers are required to deploy labourers to carry out their work; having to pay them, and hence, incur further losses.
Yogesh saw this at home. His father, a farmer, struggled the same way as most farmers do. Moreover, the hard toil and running a tractor in his farm worsened his father’ back pain. It was his dad’s struggles that made him stumble upon the idea of designing a tractor that can be remote-controlled.
Yogesh singlehandedly formed Team AutoTrac, focussing on developing a driverless tractor at his Bamori Kalan village, tucked away in the Baran district of Rajasthan, for a period of six months (from September 2017 to March 2018). Yogesh was financially supported by his father and went ahead buying all the necessary parts to carry out the driverless tractor innovation.
It was only when he started operating this driverless tractor around the paddy fields in his village, it grabbed the attention of people, who started making videos and his innovation went viral on social media platforms. The awareness about Yogesh’s innovation led to KPIT inviting him for the KPIT Motivation Programme in early 2019, subsequently leading to his participation in the KPIT Sparkle 2019 Contest – a national level innovation and design contest – where his innovation won him the silver prize and a purse of Rs 250,000.
Team AutoTrac encountered many challenges along the way – the parts needed for the tractor were not available in the market nor did the team have access to CNC machines. Yogesh procured similar parts from the market and modified them. At times, inferior parts and mechanisms would heat up, and sometimes burn. Obstacles notwithstanding, the team did manage to innovate and successfully come up with a driverless tractor.
A driverless tractor is meant to offer convenience to farmers, eliminating the need to operate the tractor manually. Additionally, in an autonomous mode, tractors can be run for far longer periods, resulting in enhanced profitability. “A farmer can run the tractor in the fields by sitting in his farm or in the comfort of his house as well as not feel tired,” said Yogesh. The driverless tractor technology will ensure the tractor performs all the day-to-day operations with ease. This innovation will help farmers to enhance their productivity as well as augment their income without the physical stress of being in the sun for long hours and doing it the manual way.
It is observed that there is increasing technical awareness among the farmers – there is a keenness among farmers to reap the benefits of technology. Driverless tractors can help farmers complete work on time – all they need to do is to give command to the tractor according to their own needs and operate them. The income of farmers by using the driverless tractor technology is only going to double, which effectively means that farmers could earn more profit by engaging in less physical work, observed Yogesh.
It must be mentioned here that the driverless technology isn’t new. There are numerous examples of manufacturers developing, showcasing and launching tractors with autonomous capabilities. Mahindra & Mahindra, for instance, has also showcased its capabilities in this field.
KPIT, on its part, was impressed with AutoTrac’s innovation. “We saw a differentiator in team AutoTrac’s innovation – a semi-autonomous driverless tractor that will be useful for existing farm equipment owners, especially in India and can also be used in other heavy equipment applications like defence, aimed at reducing driver fatigue,” KPIT said.
Team AutoTrac’s recognition by KPIT Sparkle has clearly given them a huge boost of confidence.
“KPIT Sparkle provides such a huge platform for new innovators and the kind of respect Team AutoTrac has received from everyone at the contest will help us get financial help in future,” Yogesh said. Team AutoTrac expects to make the most of the financial help it received from KPIT and develop more new technologies in the future – largely bring out innovations that address the needs of the society.
TEXT: Suhrid Barua