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Autonomous, electric tractor could be the future face of smart farming

It looks like a mean, green crop-collecting machine.

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Kubota X Tractor concept

Yeah, this totally looks like something from a video game.

Kubota

If a new tractor concept from Kubota is any indication, the future of farming is going to hold wild machines that look like something from a video game.

Earlier this month, the Japanese company revealed what it called the Dream Tractor, or X Tractor, as Kubota celebrated its 130th anniversary. The tractor is totally autonomous and doesn't produce of a whiff of greenhouse gases, since it's all electric. It's a nifty design study, and the company said there's good reason to really pursue this kind of machine.

Japanese farmers continue to retire at a rapid pace, which has left a labor shortage in the industry. According to Kubota, smart farming with autonomous equipment like this is the solution. And smart the X Tractor is.

The artificial intelligence on board reads information such as the day's weather to determine the appropriate actions. Say rain showers are an hour away. The X Tractor notes this and completes any harvesting tasks that rain will make difficult. Its design also makes it quite capable; the four-wheel crawler packaging lets it motor over difficult terrain and wet areas, such as rice paddies. It can also change its operating height depending on the situation, and in-wheel motors give the machine a tight turning radius.

The X Tractor can share all the data it collects with other connected machines on the farm to create one happy ecosystem of autonomous equipment. In Kubota's future, clearly there are machines working the entire farm.

As for what powers the machine, the company didn't say much about the electric powertrain, but it did mention there are lithium-ion and solar-powered batteries. For a machine that will be outside basically all day, solar power is certainly a smart addition.

This exact tractor isn't heading to production, but the Japanese machine maker said it'll continue to pursue automated equipment as technology advances. We won't see this guy out in the fields today, but maybe things will change 10 years from now.

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