NEWBURY - Chuck Baresich became interested in robotics while watching the iconic sci-fi franchise Star Wars and is now combining that love with his passion for farming.
NEWBURY – Chuck Baresich became interested in robotics while watching the iconic sci-fi franchise Star Wars and is now combining that love with his passion for farming.
Baresich, a joint owner of Haggerty Creek Ltd. with his brother Justin and AGRIS Co-operative Ltd., has spent the past week learning the ins and outs of using the DOT autonomous farming platform, created by DOT Technology Corp.
The Bothwell-based farm operation is the first in Ontario to use the made-in-Canada technology in a commercial fertilizer application.
On Thursday, the massive self-driving unit actually fertilized some fields near Newbury.
However, Baresich admitted standing back and watching this automated technology do the work took some getting used to.
“As a farmer, you’re not used to that. You’re used to just showing up to the field and just driving,” he said.
There’s also been a learning curve.
Baresich said farmers have to plan out the job for each field using a tablet, which includes programming the field’s boundaries and determining the most efficient method for the unit to move around the field.
He quickly realized having to program every move the DOT unit needs to perform creates a better awareness of how important it is to make sure fields are in good shape.
“It’s been so easy for us to ignore trees that have fallen down, a wet spot in the field or a washout in the field … because, when you’re driving, you just make the decision to go around it,” Baresich said.
He said a lot of farmers are coming by to see this cutting-edge technology in action.
“Part of it is the mindset,” Baresich said. “Are you willing to change what you’ve always done?”
It does require some changes, he added, but you have to start somewhere.
AGRIS Co-operative general manager Jim Campbell says autonomy is the word this year for agricultural operations.
“Haggerty and AGRIS are always bringing you what’s next,” he added. “This is what’s next.”
Baresich was attracted to the technology for a number of reasons, including its Canadian origins and his familiarity with a number of its components, such as the Cummins motor and rate controllers.
“It makes the step into the technology less challenging.”
Baresich said he and his partners are already planning to purchase more of the technology to use for planting next year. Ultimately, he envisions a number of the DOT units being used to work multiple fields at the same time.
“That day is coming,” he said.
While automation is well suited for monotonous, yet important, tasks, Baresich doesn’t see this technology eliminating any employees.
“I see this complementing what we’re doing,” he said.
Instead of having a precision ag tech spend a lot of time driving farm equipment, that person can now “be talking and doing service calls and things while the machine is out spreading fertilizer, instead of driving up and down the field,” he said.
For now, Baresich is enjoying the process of learning more about this technology.
“It’s funny to say, but it’s always exciting to watch it on the tablet … actually watch it slow down and make its turn,” he said. “That hasn’t got old yet.”