Mahindra unveils autonomous tractor

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Mahindra has showcased driverless technology in the form of an autonomous tractor.

Story & Photos:

Bhargav TS

To make farming productive and profitable, Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) has unveiled an autonomous tractor. Showcasing driverless technology, the autonomous tractor, developed at the Mahindra Research Valley, the Group’s innovation and technology hub in Chennai, is claimed to reduce health hazards for farmers. Expected to change the future of food production, the tractor is programmed to carry out specific tasks. Operable remotely, it is slated for a commercial launch in early 2018.

To be launched in a phased manner, the tractor is connected to Mahindra’s ‘DiGiSENSE’ technology. To be launched in a phased manner, it will be also launched in three phases of technology – with driver in the driving seat, in quasi-driverless mode, and in the driverless mode. In the first phase, the driver, despite being in his seat will not operate the tractor. The tractor will auto steer, auto headland turn, skip passing and auto implement lift. In the second level technological phase, the driver will continue to be in the seat. He will however not need to do anything as the tractor will move on a pre-programmed path. Geo-fenced, and with an ability to detect an obstacle, the tractor features brake by wire. The third phase will include an operator without the driver. The tractor will be remotely guided. It will have automated route planning, obstacle avoidance, drive by wire and shift by wire. Plans are underway to offer autonomous tractor technology in the 20 hp to 100 hp range. Speaking at the unveiling ceremony of the autonomous tractor, Dr. Pawan Goenka, Managing Director, M&M, expressed that the (driverless) tractor technology opens up new possibilities in farming. “It is not as much about the cost of ownership as it is about the reduction in the drudgery of farming. Our tractor R&D has always been at the forefront of pioneering cutting-edge solutions. The driverless tractor opens up new possibilities in farming. We are happy to dedicate this innovative mechanisation to the global farming community, in line with our Farming 3.0 proposition.”

The Farming 3.0 proposition is about the use of technology and innovation in farming. It is aimed at bringing greater professionalism within the farming ecosystem, and is engineered to help conserve the environment and turn out high quality farm produce. Incorporating high tech sensors, cloud computing, and specialised systems, the Framing 3.0 proposition has the autonomous tractor as a key element, which will make a smart farming machinery and support precise agricultural practices, digital platforms, custom hiring and fitter ecosystem. Featuring auto transmission (shift by wire), auto throttle (driver by wire), obstacle detection (brake by wire) and tractor master controller, the autonomous tractor employing other technology elements. The highlight is the scalability. The autonomous tractor could be scaled across the horse power range, across applications, and in terms of adaptability, programming and control. The tractor could be controlled by a tablet or a mobile phone.

Equipped with unique safety features such as geofence lock, which prevents it from going outside the predefined boundaries of the farm, the autonomous tractor could be controlled via a tablet interface, which enables the farmer to programme various inputs to enhance efficiency. A farmer can thus control the tractor remotely via a tablet. He or she can remotely start or stop the engine especially in the case of an emergency. The technology of an autonomous tractor will be deployed across Nuvo, Jivo and Yuvo according to Goenka. Claimed Aravind S Bharadwaj, CTO, M&M, that the technology will be deployed in the international markets as well. There, it is expected to provide Mahindra tractors with a distinct competitive advantage. Averred Goenka, “Our target is to price the autonomous tractor at less than Rs 100,000 a unit. We are working on reducing the costs to meet that target. Getting the costs right, and regulatory approval are two challenges that we will face. India, as of date, does not have any regulation for driverless vehicles. We are therefore discussing with regulatory authorities and are hopeful that we will get the necessary approvals in time. We want to launch the tractor in the fourth quarter of FY2017-18.” Hoping that the government will draw a framework, and execute policy changes to enable the company to launch the innovative technology in India, Mahindra, said Goenka, is not seeing any regulatory hurdle for the first two phases.” Working with union agriculture ministry to see how the technology and innovation can be forwarded, the company, according to Goenka, will empower the farmer to work in his field for longer hours. “He (the farmer) will not need to expose himself to the harsh weather. He will not have to work under difficult operating conditions. He can protect himself from potential health hazards resulting in operations like insecticide spraying. The same can now be done without human intervention,” explained Goenka. He opined that consistency in farming will lead to higher productivity and better quality.

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Jivo from Mahindra

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Mahindra has launched a new, small 25 hp tractor for affluent farmers with 4WD capability.

Story and Photos by:

Ashish Bhatia

Tractors are changing. Much like trucks and buses, they are modernising. The recent tractor launch by Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) is a case in point. Called the Jivo, the tractor, producing 24 hp out of a direct-injection diesel engine, is equipped with 4WD mechanism. Looking to increase the manufacturer’s market reach in the 25 hp tractor segment, Jivo is made available in a two-tone paint scheme. Equipped with Mahindra’s DigiSense technology, the Jivo is priced at Rs.3.90 lakh for the 4WD version, and Rs.4.05 lakh, ex-showroom, Maharashtra, for the two-tone colour version. With sales starting April 24, 2017, the tractor is available in the state of Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh besides Maharashtra. Claimed to offer best-in-class performance, the Jivo is equipped with Automatic Depth and Draft Control (ADDC). Said to enable the farmer to experience a superior land preparation experience, the tractor is designed for multi-application, crop care, land preparation, inter culture and vineyard spraying. With an ability to work with larger implements like a 1.2 m rotavator and seven tyne cultivator, which make for greater depth of hard soil cutting, the Jivo, according to Rajesh Jejurikar, President – Farm Equipment Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., offers highest load carrying capacity of up to three-tonnes in the segment. “Helping in small farm mechanisation with its multi-application suitability, the Jivo has best-in-class PTO horsepower and fuel efficiency apart from comfort and value,” stated Rajesh.

Style and Comfort

The dual-tone version of Jivo (with DigiSense) offers 24×7 connectivity to farmers. Based on telematics, DigiSense offers the Jivo owner updates on performance. DigiSense also provides crucial alerts like high engine rpm and battery charge indication among others. And this, it does on a real-time basis. In both the Jivo versions, the direct-injection diesel engine is mated to an eight-speed transmission. There are four reverse gears. The gear shift lever is located on the side, and on the fender. The placement of the gear shift lever hints at much thought being given to driver comfort and ergonomics. Especially the long work hours that may entail. The 4WD version of the Jivo offers superior traction under wet and slippery operating conditions. The two-speed PTO is claimed to improve rotavator application, and help in vineyard applications where the need is to continuously spray pesticides and other such liquids. Boasting of a top speed of 25 kmph, the tractor, said Dr. Pawan Goenka, Managing Director of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., “we have embarked on various initiatives with innovation and technology as the bedrock. We are working towards redefining the face of farming with the launch of Farming 3.0 platform that would help to elevate farm mechanisation to a new level. The launch of Jivo marks a significant step in that directiion.”

The Jivo, claim sources close to the company, has been benchmarked against the Kubota 2420. One can’t help but notice the uncanny resemblance. Jivo, claimed sources close to the company, is superior in fuel economy and the application of implements than the Kubota. With a wide range of tractor offering, including the range of tractors offered by Group entity, Punjab Tractors, the company has come to command a 42.7 per cent market share in tractors. The Jivo will present the company an opportunity to carve out a larger pie of the tractor market. It looks like an attempt to blur boundaries and move up the value chain, the fact is, the nature of farming is changing. Mechanisation is continuing to rise, and change. With row crop farming and horticulture assuming greater importance, including orchids and vineyards, the demand for mechanisation is only expected to rise further. Horticulture production is growing at a pace faster than food grain production, at 284 million-tonnes compared to 252 million-tonnes earlier. The under 30 hp tractor segment constitutes an eight to 10 per cent volume segment of the overall segment size. Before the Jivo was launched, Mahindra had a single offering in the sub-25 hp segment. The arrival of Jivo is expected to help increase the market reach. Following the Arjun Novo and the Yuvo as the third new platform in a span of three years, the Jivo has much going for it.

Healthy growth of tractors

R - L Dr. Pawan Goenka Managing Director MM Ltd and Rajesh Jejurikar President Farm Equipment Sector MM Ltd at the launch of Mahindras new tra copy

Mahindra’s Farm Equipment Sector saw good growth in FY2016-17. It along with Escorts saw a year-on-Year (YoY) sales growth of 29 per cent and 32 per cent respectively according to a report by Emkay Research. A report by ICRA states that tractor volumes in domestic market have had a positive growth trajectory during current fiscal (growth in volumes of 18.2 per cent in 10 m, FY2017 on a YoY basis) fuelled by favourable farm sentiments as southwest monsoon performance remained healthier as compared to previous two fiscals. While the monsoon performance augured well for kharif production, it also replenished reservoir levels that supported rabi sowing despite weak winter monsoons. The growth momentum witnessed a pause in November, 2016, the report mentions, with demonetisation causing cash crunch resulting in a decline in monthly volumes by 13 per cent (YoY basis). After the minor blip, however, domestic volumes recovered, with the industry volumes growing by eight per cent and six per cent respectively in December 2016 and January 2017 on YoY basis. In February, 2017, leading tractor OEMs reported a healthy growth in domestic volumes, pointing to continuation of growth momentum for the domestic industry. Pointing at the good growth enjoyed by the farm equipment segment, sources close to Mahindra, stated that the Jivo was engineered to target affluent farmers with a land holding of five to 20 acres for a reason. Data suggests, they mentioned, that 80 per cent of the total land holding in India is estimated to be at less than five acres. The segment has witnessed a meagre two per cent tractor penetration making it a high potential area for growth. Describing the current times as an era of ‘Farming 3.0’, Dr. Goenka, averred that the space of change in India’s farming segment is slow. “Change is in store over the next five to 10 years, and we want to be a part of it”. A 20 hp, 2WD variant is also in the works claim sources. They point to a launch time of September 2017. The Jivo platform has seen Mahindra invest Rs.90 crore. Plans are being chalked to produce 50,000 units per annum initially. Having sold 17,973 tractors in March 2017, and realising a 29 per cent growth in the domestic market over the corresponding period last year, Mahindra, is bullish about healthy growth on the back of new, technologically apt and smart farm equipment. The secret of Mahindra Farm Equipment success may lie in the fact that the company recorded an exports growth of 82 per cent in March 2017 as compared to March 2016.

April tractor sales rise

Rural sentiments seem to be on the rise. Tractors posted good sales in April 2016. Mahindra posted a 22 per cent growth by selling 20,074 units. Escorts posted a 10.3 per cent growth, clocking sales figures of 4,000 units. Sonalika International tractors posted a seven per cent growth by selling 5,392 units. Albeit industry experts are cautious. They are of the opinon that a good performance in April is typical of the high offtake period, which is due to higher inventory. The other reason, the industry experts, offer is the low base last year. If they are to be believed, the next few months will be crucial for a clear picture to be had.