Autonomy Answers - Darryl Matthews
This ongoing interview series features professionals within and outside of Trimble to share their insights, experiences and opinions about autonomy and its range of applications across a variety of industries.
Meet Darryl Matthews
Darryl Matthews is the senior vice president, autonomy and natural resources for Trimble, Inc. Prior to joining Trimble in 2015, Matthews served as president and general manager of the NAFTA region for Nufarm Americas, Inc. With over 20 years of experience in crop protection, seeds, nutrition and manufacturing, he began his career at Dow AgroSciences in Canada where he held management roles in sales and marketing. Matthews has served on the Board of Directors for both CropLife America from 2010 to 2015 and CropLife Canada. He holds an Honors B.Sc. in Agriculture majoring in Horticultural Science and Business from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada in 1994.
Questions for Trimble Autonomy leaders:
How do you foresee the impact of autonomous solutions / technologies on consumer’s lives?
I see autonomy as a series of automation steps which build fully autonomous solutions. I believe industries such as ag and construction will move faster to autonomous machines than automotive simply because there are less variables and the environments are more controllable. The impact of autonomy on consumers is improved safety and increased sustainability through improved efficiency all along the production or work cycle.
In your opinion, where does an automated workflow in construction and/or agriculture make the biggest difference in the machine’s functionality and/or in the end user’s workflow?
Workflows are important to ensure the machine can complete the entire task. Too often there can be variables that can become barriers to the machine, forcing it to stop and start too many times, and not completing the task all the way through. Where we can drive ROI for our customers is ensuring these machines can complete the entire task. It's no help to have an automated grain cart that just picks up the grain, moves out of the way and stops. If it doesn’t have the capability to unload and to carry on with the rest of the task, it just doesn’t help the farmer or the customer in completing the entire task. Workflows need to flow all the way through, and that’s where Trimble is uniquely different in understanding the domain very well.
What excites you about the impact of autonomy in more traditional industries, e.g. agriculture, construction and automotive?
The two things that will be very impactful - first, increased safety will come through automation and autonomy. For instance, the goal of applications like advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) is to reduce vehicular-related injury or death. And secondly, that autonomy and automation will improve sustainability and drive efficiency. We are constantly reviewing the data to further improve the work that we’re doing to make it more efficient and better for sustainability.
We’ve done a number of sustainability tests on the autonomous capability with the Dynapac compactor that we’re developing. We have looked at the fuel burn, and the amount of fuel that is used between an autonomous vehicle versus an operator and we see a reduction in the overall amount of fuel used. This is a direct result of having the work being done exactly to the specifications of the task. In addition to a reduction in fuel consumption, there is no wasted time, overlap or over compaction that is often the result of an operator executing the task. Dietmar Grimm, Trimble’s VP of corporate strategy and sustainability is leading the effort to understand the impact and benefits of autonomous capabilities on sustainability.
What’s been your greatest professional accomplishment? What work are you most proud of?
When I look back at my professional experience, there are two accomplishments that really stand out. First, the work that I did in changing the business while I was at my previous company. At the time, Nufarm Americas went through a dramatic change that significantly impacted their marketplace and revenue. I spent 5 years rebuilding that business, and significantly grew revenue by moving into new segments, thereby creating lasting growth for the company.
The second area I feel proud of is moving to the technology space in agriculture. I was in the input side of agriculture before I joined Trimble. The technology space is where I wanted to move my career because I see it as the next great revolution. It’s what agriculture and traditional industries are moving toward. I believe we are starting to see that revolution today with the sustainability and efficiency initiatives that are being driven because of technology. There's no doubt that emerging technology is reducing the carbon footprint and applying the inputs required to produce food exactly where and when they are needed to reduce waste.
Can you share a ‘breakthrough’ or ‘aha’ moment in your own journey of implementation of autonomous capabilities?
For me, the breakthrough is realizing that more traditional industries, specifically agriculture and construction, will be the early adopters for autonomous capabilities because of the closed-loop work environments in those industries. As a result, I believe we will see level 4 or 5 autonomy in construction and agriculture much sooner than in automotive.
What would you tell someone who’s eager to work on autonomous solutions? What do they need to know to do this work?
There are two avenues into a career in autonomy. I think it’s important to have either the technical expertise in engineering or in software development, or to have what I call the domain knowledge on the customer and industry side. Having a full understanding of workflow, and how to design or build technology that works to improve the current workflow, will set you up for success.
Is there a favorite toy/game from your childhood that shaped your career path?
I played with lots of trucks and farm machinery. Growing up on a farm, I was driving tractors at 13 years old. I grew up in a farming community in Ontario and worked mostly on dairy farms. I knew from an early age I didn’t want to be a dairy farmer, but I have a deep appreciation and admiration for farmers and their dedication to farming, which led me to pursue a career in the agriculture industry.
In your opinion, what’s the closest thing to real magic?
The closest thing to real magic, in our industry, is when we can create technology that simplifies a task, and that we hear from the customer that they can’t live without it.