Let's Do It Ourselves

Tractors & Tankers

May 16, 2013

 I am Dave Reesor and today I am in Mossleigh, Alberta on land farmed by Ian Donovan. Ian is in the middle of spring seeding. His 535 horsepower tractor is pulling a 65 foot or roughly 20 meter wide no-till seeder with fertilizer and seed tank in tow. Ian is a fourth-generation grain farmer who got his start at a very young age. 

Ian: “I rented my first piece of land, my Dad rented with me, when I was 15 so got a little taste of farming then. And then my Dad had a stroke when I was 17 so I took over the family farm.”

When I was farming in the 1960s and 70s we used equipment that was 20 to 30 feet wide. Even then it was difficult to see exactly where the end of the implement was so we overlapped by roughly 15 inches or half a meter and that required a lot of concentration. And when you’re overlapping you’re doing part of the job twice. That’s a waste of fuel, fertilizer, seed and effort. On a 30 foot wide implement you’re wasting 4 or 5%. 

Today, Ian’s seed drill is more than double that width. But with GPS technology he can press a button, let go of the steering wheel and GPS guides his tractor to the other end of the field a mile away. 

The GPS keeps the outer end of his seed drill accurate to within about an inch. There is no overlap which means no wasted fuel, no wasted fertilizer or seed and no steering effort which allows Ian, the politician, time to get in touch with his constituents. 

If tractors can be steered this accurately it occurs to me that oil tankers can be as well. 

Dave: “Do you see a way that the Exxon Valdez situation correlates to the way you drive your tractors now?” 

Ian: “The technology we have you should be able to with global positioning and stuff with satellites, it shouldn’t be a problem at all to stay away from along the coasts and stuff like that or if there’s a coral area or something they know about. I can put in my land location of my farm and it will drive me right into my yard, tell you when to turn within 100 feet, when to turn within 50 feet and everything else.”  

The Exxon Valdez was a single-hull design that operated with 1989 technology. New tankers carrying petroleum products are now double-hulled and most are equipped with multiple fool-proof guidance systems. Regulators simply have to make these safety features mandatory and then enforce the law. 

If you agree, tell your panicky friends that rejecting today’s oil tankers because of the Exxon Valdez incident is like banning the Goodyear Blimp from football games because of the Hindenburg. 

From Mossleigh, Alberta, this is Dave Reesor reporting for LDIO.org.

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