Post Falls man unveils farm drone technology
Dave Farb, CEO and founder of Farb Guidance Systems Inc., of Post Falls, says he believes his company’s technology that guides unmanned farming equipment will help feed the world.
Farb contends the land-drone technology will free farmers from the confines of their tractors, enabling them to be more productive.
The guidance system operates the equipment, while the farmer can monitor and control it remotely from an office-based computer, a laptop, a smartphone, or other portable Web-enabled device, he says.
“It gives time back to the farmer,” Farb says. “Farmers don’t need to be on the tractor.” The technology also makes operating equipment safer and more cost effective, while reducing environmental impacts, he claims.
Farb unveiled the guidance system last month at the Idaho Technology Council’s Capital Connect Conference, in Boise. He says the company already has a handful of orders and has scheduled its first deliveries in early 2016.
The initial equipment platform for the guidance system is a multiterrain version of the Caterpillar skid steer, although Farb says the guidance system also works with other platforms.
He says he chose to start out with the system on a skid steer because “it’s a familiar, robust, multipurpose tool that costs under $100,000,” compared with a modern, full-sized tractor that can easily top $300,000 in price.
The skid-steer platform with a full guidance system starts at around $85,000, and multiple configurations will be available for under $100,000, he says.
“For about the price of a pickup, you can try this technology,” Farb says. “It’s not a big risk.”
If the farmer can be free from riding in the cab of a tractor, it’s more cost effective to have multiple smaller machines rather than one large one, Farb claims.
He adds that the guidance system enables machinery to work at all hours enabling the farmer to monitor and guide multiple machines with controls in the palm of a hand.
The system will be adaptable for multiple brands of farming equipment, starting in the first quarter of 2016, Farb says.
The guidance system’s application won’t be limited to tractors, Farb says, adding that the company is working on a hay and straw baler that can drive itself.
Farb asks, “Why does a tractor power a baler? Because that’s what the farmer has.” He contends, however, that a standard-sized tractor often is overpowered for such a use.
“It’s more cost effective to put a propulsion system with self-guidance technology on a baler,” he says.
The heart of the system is in the proprietary software developed by Farb Guidance Systems.
The guidance system taps into standard electronic-control components of modern farm equipment, and currently uses off-the-shelf hardware including antennas and signal boosters.
Farb says the company plans to develop proprietary components that likely would be assembled in the Inland Northwest.