A North Dakota cooperative is using self-driving trucks to address driver shortages when hauling harvested sugarbeets. 

Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative (MDFC) teamed up with Kratos Defense & Security Solutions to retrofit its existing fleet and logistics operations with Kratos Autonomous Systems. 

The collaboration between Kratos and MDFC, one of America’s largest sugarbeet cooperatives, was fostered by Grand Farm, a nonprofit group focused on facilitating agriculture technology innovation. The partnership combines Kratos’ unmanned system technologies with Minn-Dak’s agriculture and transportation expertise. The retrofitted solution adapts “Leader/Follower” truck platooning for hauling harvested sugarbeets between piling stations and processing plant.

North Dakota farmers, particularly sugarbeet growers, have been early adopters of emerging agriculture technologies. Driverless technology is considered part of this spectrum, enhancing critical farm-related operations to solve workforce, cost and safety challenges.

Significant effort, cost and planning is required to ensure haul capacity meets national harvest quotas. Over 50,000 trucks a day can be deployed during peak sugarbeet harvesting season. The Kratos Leader/Follower platoon is an enabling technology that the agriculture industry can now use for optimizing allocation of available labor to bolster the supply chain.

“It’s no secret that there is a gross shortage of commercially licensed truck drivers, especially in rural areas like ours," says Mike Metzger, MDFC vice president of agriculture. "The deployment of driverless vehicle technology will undoubtedly help alleviate these labor shortages and improve the overall safety and efficiency of our fleet.”

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