It was just this July that Japan's Yanmar Agri Corporation unveiled a line of driverless agricultural tractors. Now, as part of the same Smartpilot system, the company has announced an autonomous rice seedling-transplanter.

Known as the YR8D, A, the new diesel-powered vehicle is wirelessly programmed/monitored via an included waterproof 10.1-inch tablet. It can operate in either of two modes, depending on rice paddy conditions and other factors.

In Linear Mode, it automatically moves in straight lines through the paddy, with an onboard driver manually steering the vehicle through the turn-arounds at the end of each row. In Auto Mode, it's able to remain completely driverless, handling the turns on its own. Additionally, its seedling-planting mechanism automatically moves up and down in response to the level of the terrain.

An onboard GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) module allows the vehicle to know where it is within the paddy. Users can also set up an optional ground-located base station, with which the vehicle wirelessly communicates to more accurately gauge its location.

"The phase where planting is performed in the paddy is almost exactly the same as with a regular transplanter and there are no additional yield benefits," Yanmar's Paul Bartels told us.

"Where the efficiency is realized is in the rearing of the seedlings that are planted by the transplanter. By utilizing the 'dense seedling' process, one tray of seedlings contains far more rice seedlings than the same sized tray grown in the regular process. Therefore, there is a saving in labor and space, compared to the regular process for producing seedlings. The YR8D, A transplanter can utilize these dense seedling trays, whereas a regular transplanter cannot."

The YR8D, A will initially only be available in Japan, as of Feb. 1st. Pricing will range from ¥3,955,000 to ¥5,545,000 (about US$35,230 to $49,392).

It can be seen in action, in the video below.

Source: Yanmar

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