Could a fleet of autonomous tractors working together to seed, fertilise and spray paddocks be the next frontier of farming?
A representative from the world's third largest tractor manufacturer thinks so.
Kesavan is the corporate relations and alliances group president for Tractors and Farm Equipment, which manufactures Massey Ferguson, Eicher, TAFE and IMT tractors at its factory in Chennai, India.
Last year the company produced 190,000 tractors for the domestic and international market.
It is also a shareholder in American machinery manufacturer Agco, the parent company of Massey Ferguson.
While the size of farms and machinery in Australia has expanded, the average farm size in India is one hectare and 34 to 38 kilowatt (45 to 50 horsepower) tractors are used.
Kesavan said high-horsepower tractors had been designed out of the need to cover large areas of farmland and in response to the shortage of manpower.
"We thought of big machines because we don't have manpower, or man is getting lazier but it can be done with a small machine," he said.
Kesavan said he genuinely believed the size of tractors was going to become smaller and smaller throughout the world.
The work was already being done to create autonomous tractors and the next step would be to swarm them together.
"One of the reasons is if you have one 500 horsepower tractor and something goes wrong, you've lost 500 horsepower," he said.
"If you have 10 of them the chances of that happening is much less.
"When you don't need the people or drivers you can swarm it together and as you miniaturise this size you can also operate differently."
We genuinely believe there can be cooperation between Australia and India.- Kesavan
This concept could lessen the amount of pesticides applied and reduce compaction to better preserve the soil.
Kesavan said in countries like India the system might not be fully automated but in Australia "you will probably replace human beings".
"It will either work with man, making his life easy, or work without human beings so it can automate completely," he said.
Kesavan was in Australia last week as part of the Australia India Business Exchange.
The delegation from some of India's largest agribusinesses attended the Digital Agrifood Summit in Wagga Wagga, NSW, and visited the Agtech and Logistics Hub at Toowoomba, Qld.
"I think one of the basic reasons why we came here was, we find a lot of similar activity in what's happening in India with agtech, the only thing is in Australia this happens with a larger area," he said.
"But the basic philosophy and the technology is the same, so we genuinely believe there can be cooperation between Australia and India."
One challenge agtech could address in both countries was water scarcity.
"The problem is either you have a lot of water, so you waste it, or you have no water, so you don't know what to do with it," he said.
"How do you save water and reutilise it? This is where technology is going to come into play."
Kesavan said in the future, Australian agtech could be manufactured in India and supplied to the world.
He said this would be a win-win for both countries.
"I think the technology can be brought to India, not only for usage in India by scaling it down, but also India also can be an area from which Australia can look at the world," he said.
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