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Published September 12, 2012, 05:58 PM

Big Iron features world's first self-driving tractor

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Big Iron is bringing some of the biggest and best farm equipment to the Red River Valley, even showing off a machine that drives itself.

By: Kay Cooley, WDAY Staff Reports, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Big Iron is bringing some of the biggest and best farm equipment to the Red River Valley, even showing off a machine that drives itself.

The 32nd annual event is the only one nationwide featuring an autonomous tractor, drawing even larger crowds than years past.

Each year farmers flock to the Red River Valley Fairgrounds hoping to take a look at some of the best agricultural technology around.

And this year, farmers like Jerry Lampl came to see something they can't find anywhere else, the Spirit.

Jerry Lampl, Park Rapids, MN: “Sounds really interesting. I was just reading up on it and I thought it'd be really helpful.”

It's the world's first autonomous tractor and the man behind the machine says it all began with a simple family bet.

Terry Anderson, Autonomous Tractor Company Founder: “It started out with a cousin of mine giving me a challenge.”

And after 13 years of work, he's created a tractor that runs on radios, lasers, and remotes. No need for a farmer in the cab.

Anderson: “If we can control a predator aircraft over in Afghanistan from Missouri, I think we should be able to control a tractor in a field from a pickup.”

The Big Iron event is the only place in the country where you can come and see the autonomous tractor, bringing thousands of extra people to the grounds this year.

Bryan Schulz, Red River Fair Assoc. GM: “Bringing in the biggest and the best and the best technology around so we're very happy about that.”

Anderson says the Spirit is safe and costs half the price of a tractor, and can be repaired onsite by farmers.

Anderson: “We're going to use technology to make the farmer's task a little easier.”

Helping to save an industry that may soon start struggling.

Anderson: “Young people are going to school. They don't want to go back to the farms.”

Lampl: “Seems like it'd be really interesting just to try out if nothing else.”

Nonetheless, paving the way for the future of farming.

The Spirit will be manufactured and sold solely across the Red River Valley beginning in March before expanding nationwide. It will cost around $200,000.

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