Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Robo-farming: "A North Dakota Man Reinvents the Tractor: Autonomous Tractor Corporation’s 'Spirit'"

I have an analyst friend who is the only person I know to have identified two 100-folders.
That's unusual but even more unusual is that one of them was a fertilizer spreader manufacturer.

The stock went from 50 cents to $50.00, split 10:1 and went back to $50.00.
That's 1000x on the money and puts it in the company of WMT and BRK for best performance of any publicly held company in the last generation.*

From Big Picture Agriculture:

Is this the future of tractors? “Spirit” is a diesel-electric tractor modeled after a diesel locomotive engine.
There is no cab because this autonomous tractor’s inventor, Terry Anderson, thinks that a penthouse cab would be an unnecessary and useless expense, given the driverless technology. There is also no drive train or transmission. Its simple lattice steel frame is made out of I-beams and square tubing which can be cut, welded, and painted robotically. Anderson fashioned this 8.5 foot-wide, 9 foot-high tractor after a locomotive with an electric-diesel drive system. Two 202 horsepower Isuzu four-cylinder diesel engines generate electricity to four motor drives on the wheels which run the 25″ Bridgestone rubber tracks. It weighs 25,000 pounds.

A fuel tank of 520 gallons should allow the “Spirit” to run for 36 hours. A ballast tank allows for the tractor to increase or decrease its weight by 4,000 pounds.

Anderson doesn’t think GPS is accurate enough, so his autonomous tractor uses on-the-ground APS (area positioning system) technology for its guide system. APS is a military-inspired positioning system and is a wholly owned subsidiary of ATC. This company started devising its own control system seven years ago, which uses computers, laser and radio to control the tractor within a fraction of an inch and can control up to sixteen tractors at once. This system requires control towers having a 25-mile range, or a portable hand controller. The controllers take readings 10 times per second for adjusting power to the right or left.  ...MORE
John Deere has been working in this direction since at least 2007.

*Buffett got some of his BRK as as low as $7.60 and, if memory serves, had an average cost of $15 or so.
$128,103, last makes almost an order of magnitude better.

Walmart came public in 1970 by offering 300,000 shares at $15 (it trades at $16.50). It has split a total of 1024:1.
Throw in divvies and it's on the order of 3000 times on the money.

The analyst in question is a card-carrying Communist who is conflicted by his idiot-savant ("Who you calling a savant?) capitalist abilities.
I would take a call from him at any hour of the day or night.