Tech company opening Canadian headquarters near Regina, plans to develop autonomous farm equipment

·2 min read

A manufacturing facility is being set up in Emerald Park, Sask. — about 17 kilometres east of Regina — that could help change farming as we know it.

Tech company Raven Industries Inc. has announced it plans to open a 21,000-square-foot facility in the winter after acquiring Dot Technology Corp. — a Saskatchewan-based developer of the Dot Power Platform — in June. It will serve as the company's Canadian headquarters, according to a Tuesday news release.

The South Dakota-based company said the facility will be used for streamlined testing, manufacturing and distribution of Dot technology, which allows farmers to carry out tasks in their fields autonomously.

In other words, Dot Power Platform is like a tractor that doesn't need a driver.

The technology involves a mobile machine that can seed, spray, or spread without the farmer being physically present. Instead, the farmer uses a computer program to generate a path plan for each field, which can be altered at any time, and then the machine gets to work doing whichever task that needs to be done.

It can run on its own, or the farmer can control it using a tablet, according to the company's website.

"As we look into the future, we don't see the farmer being taken out of the equation. We see the farmer actually being able to do more," Wade Robey, executive director of Raven Autonomy, told CBC News.

"The future Raven sees is a farm and an operation where both manned and unmanned machines are working together."

He said the company has been working with farmers over the summer and fall, "validating the technology and the implements," and now they plan on re-entering the market next year and scaling up.

'We see this as a worldwide capability'

Robey said the facility currently employs about 20 people, but he thinks that number will "expand significantly."

"We see this as a worldwide capability, but we'll make significant investments in Regina and in the broader provinces in western Canada," he said.

Robey said there were several reasons the company chose Regina as the place to set up operations.

"There's a lot of agricultural production that occurs in Saskatchewan, but in this region specifically, so it's a great place. We have customers there that we can easily engage with and demonstrate that," he said.

"Secondly, Regina has a great community for talent. There's obviously higher education in Regina, opportunity to hire engineers and other capable people, and so we see it as a great centre for us to build out the team and have the kind of competencies that will be required."

Robey said renovations are still underway at the facility, but assembly operations are planned to start in January.

The company has also partnered with Economic Development Regina as a part of the Investment Partnership Program.