Momentum for autonomy in ag continues to accelerate with driverless systems being developed and demonstrated. However, over the past 6 months, companies have adapted the pace of progress to accommodate the unavoidable impact of COVID-19.

Tim Norris, business development manager for Raven Autonomy, works to develop the company’s dealer network by scouting and researching prospective partners. Like many, Norris — former CEO of Ag Info Tech — has been working from his home in Mount Vernon, Ohio, but his strategy to develop the seller market in autonomy continues. 

He and his team have has pushed forward with coordinating opportunities to showcase the company’s AutoCart and DOT platforms. With uncertainty surrounding summer and fall farm shows, strategizing targeted demonstrations with select dealers is a priority. 

“We're coming out with a whole new concept in autonomous technology, so to really be able to get people excited about it, they have to see it in action,” Norris says. “One of the things that we implemented was a dealer demo program where we’re getting dealers to purchase a system at a discount and then train them. Our plan is to do a traveling road show at those different dealers locations where we invite several groups of 10 or less people to come in.”

Alpha testing at remote sites is a critical to moving forward with development while still respecting the COVID-19 guidelines. Still, Norris explains that they are running these platforms with an appropriate level of human supervision. 

Testing at the Raven Innovation Campus in Sioux Falls, S.D., has continued, but operations at sites in California and Arizona were suspended. However, a Raven Autonomy team member, along with his wife drove a rented camper from Iowa to live at the California site and resume testing. 

“It’s on a farm in the middle of nowhere, so they were able to creatively and safely work around the challenges to keep things moving forward,” Norris says. “In spite of the current situation, we are successfully running two alpha sites and testing the equipment every day.”

In part of the Farm Equipment Thought Leader video series, Norris discusses the manufacturer's short- and long-term outlook for developing its dealer network.