The SPIRIT™ autonomous tractor is being developed by Autonomous Tractor Corporation (ATC), Fargo, North Dakota, and Automation Research Group (ARG), a research and development company in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“No one has re-thought the ag tractor from the bottom up in probably 80 years,” said Dr. LeRoy Anderson, ATC VP of software development. “Currently available equipment has tried to meet the needs of farmers by incremental innovation over many decades. The result is a ‘creeping elegance’ that has produced giant machines that are prohibitively expensive, inefficient, difficult to transport and unserviceable except by the most highly trained mechanics.”
ATC was formally incorporated as a North Dakota corporation in January 2012. The initial focus of the business is to develop the technology to deliver a truly autonomous tractor. An integral part of this focus is the wholly owned subsidiary known as Area Positioning Systems, Inc. (APS). APS uses a combination of computers, lasers and radio transmissions to perform these tasks.
Early attempts by ARC to develop an unmanned tractor using GPS-technology proved unsuccessful. ARC discovered that GPS-technology is not suitable for use in agricultural markets. In 2011 ATC combined ATC hardware with APS software to introduce the SPIRIT™ tractor.