The Future of Farming? A 'Swarm' of Tractors
INDIANAPOLIS - A young inventor and entrepreneur from northwest Indiana thinks the future of farm tractors is smaller, lighter and abundant. Zack James is the founder of Rabbit Tractors Inc. in Cedar Lake.
James displayed his idea last week at the Forbes AgTech Summit held in Indianapolis where he hoped to get the attention of investors.
James’ Rabbits are significantly smaller than the traditional tractors you see in Indiana fields. His concept is to use a “swarm” of smart machines to accomplish the same amount of work by one large tractor.
“The way we do farming is centered around that piece of equipment. So, the concept is that instead of running one very large piece of equipment, you're in five to 10 smaller units in a swarm within a field or across your entire operation at once,” says James.
The prototype is about five feet long, three feet wide, and four feet high. The tires are about 12 inches in diameter.
James says at that size, there’s less permanent soil compaction, plus they’re mobile.
The inventor explains multiple Rabbits can be loaded onto a truck and moved to other fields at faster speeds than standard tractors.
“They're very good at anything that doesn't require a lot of moving a lot of dirt. So basically anything except for tillage,” James said. He says next spring, they will be trying to use his machines for spring planting. He envisions the Rabbits could be used for the broadcast delivery of seed for cover crops. They would also be used for spraying of fertilizer or weed control.
James says his technology is not only about the size of the equipment but the ability to use it without an operator in the seat.
“We believe is that autonomy is not just going to save labor for farming, it's going to let us re envision the way a tractor is built. It's a reinvention,” said James.
Last spring, Rabbit Tractors earned second place honors at the AgriNovus Indiana Startup Showcase. The event highlights entrepreneurs in the ag-tech and bioscience sectors. It allows the young business operator to hone his or her sales pitch, make business contacts and seek capital.
James earned a finance degree from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. He then attended the University of Michigan Law School. But now he can be found in a farm field or in a workshop, trying to reimagine farming of the future.