A Grande Prairie grain farmer has invented a tool for controlling tractors remotely that he says will get work done more quickly and with less stress.
The RCFarmArm, invented by Vincent Pawluski, allows farmers to control their tractors from outside the cab.
Designed to mimic a human arm, the device allows farms to start and stop a tractor's engine, engage or disengage the power-takeoff (known as PTO) and operate hydraulic functions.
Using the remote to control the tractor speeds up the work and "takes the stress out of those operations," said Pawluski.
The grain farmer used to move many times between his tractor and equipment while working alone, performing tasks like extracting and bagging grain. In snowy conditions, he'd sometimes slip and fall while moving between the grain bag and the tractor, he said.
A journeyman millwright by trade, Pawluski grew up in a farming family and has long enjoyed tinkering with remote-controlled machines.
After experimenting with automating some of his agricultural equipment, he tweeted a video of himself starting the engine of his tractor with a remote control last summer.
Within 24 hours, dozens of people had contacted him about using the technology.
Pawluski has since developed a prototype, applied for a patent and started taking pre-orders for his invention, which costs about $5,000.
He taught himself how to draw using computer-aided design and uses a 3D printer to produce the arm's parts.
"My whole outlook on things is if I need it, I'll learn it so I can do it," he said.
The technology takes about five minutes to install, as part of the device sits on top of the armrest controls. It draws power from the tractor.
The arm has multiple safety features, including a stop button that turns everything off right away, Pawluski said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented him from showing off the technology at many farm shows, but last month the invention earned Pawluski an innovation award at Canada's Farm Show, the country's largest agricultural show.
Pawluski plans to present the RCFarmArm at the Thanks for Farming Tour event series this month.
He hopes to get in farmers' hands before the fall harvest in several months, he said.