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Exploring high-tech fields

Colin Hurd is working to drive high-tech solutions from Iowa onto farm fields all across the land. 

“We’re taking cutting-edge technology and applying it to agriculture in a way that no one has ever done,” said Colin Hurd, founder and CEO of Ames-based Smart Ag.

Specifically, Hurd and his team are applying driverless technology to tractors. They’ve developed a retrofit kit that can be added to a standard tractor to make it autonomous. Once equipped, the tractor connects with cloud-based Smart Ag software to perform various farming functions. 

“Our goal is to take that technology, apply it to a big problem and hopefully change the way we farm in the future,” said Hurd, who founded the investor-backed company in 2015 to address the issue of labor scarcity. 

Smart Ag’s initial software application for driverless tractors is called AutoCart®, which fully automates a grain cart tractor for use during harvest. Smart Ag introduced AutoCart® in 2018 after two years developing the product. Hurd said future software applications include solutions for tillage, planting and spraying. 

“The kit includes the full suite of technology – communications systems, navigation systems and perception systems,” Hurd explained. “It’s aware of what’s around it. It can detect people, obstacles and anything in its path to operate safely in almost any environment.”

Hurd, an Iowa State graduate, grew up farming. He said that those agricultural roots, which other members of his team share, coupled with the company’s Iowa location give Smart Ag a competitive advantage over their Silicon Valley competitors. 

“It gives us the ability to refine the product in a way that others might not be able to do because they don’t understand that world,” he said. “Being here in Iowa, we can walk out into a field with our customer and validate our product as often as we need to. It reflects in the quality of our product and the quality of our solutions.”

Video created by the Technology Association of Iowa

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