In this Equipment Roundup, DTN/Progressive Farmer looks at a presentation by Solectrac CEO Steve Heckeroth on the benefits of electric power in farm tractors, highlights a report on strong sales of farm tractors and combines kicking off the year, notes which startups will partner with John Deere, and give details about an agricultural manufacturing training program created by AGCO Corp. with Universal Technical Institute.
BENEFITS OF ELECTRIC TRACTORS
The World Ag Expo, normally a vast market for all things agriculture outside Tulare, California, arrived this week as a virtual, year-long event. From it came an interesting presentation by Solectrac founder and CEO Steve Heckeroth. Solectrac is a California Benefit Corporation manufacturing electric tractors at Rosa, California.
Heckeroth's presentation touted the benefits of electric power in farm tractors. He has been making electric conversions on cars, trucks, racing cars and tractors for 25 years. He sees a broad market for electric tractors.
"There are about 600 million farms in the world, but only about 5% have tractors," he said. Filling that untapped market is made possible with solar energy, he added. "With solar energy, solar-charged tractors, you level the playing field ... everyone who has access to the sun can have a tractor powered by the sun. (Farmers) can be self-sufficient. They can put down a solar array and be farming that day."
Solectrac currently offers three electric tractors. Two produce 30 horsepower (diesel equivalent). They are the four-wheel-drive Compact Electric Tractor (CET) and the eFarmer, an eye-catching, minimalist design with a patented exchangeable battery pack. The CET, less than a meter wide with ag tires, has a base price of $28,500. The eFarmer has a base price of $49,500. Swappable battery packs cost $10,000. Front-end loaders are optional.
"I'm really excited about the eFarmer," Heckeroth said, explaining it has three hitch locations.
"It's made specifically for growing food," he noted. It has a "mid hitch." That hitch allows the operator to "see what is going on right in front of you." It also has a front hitch allowing operators to add weight, a loader or other implement. A third, rear hitch gives operators the ability to run a wide range of standard tools.
The third Solectrac vehicle, the eUtility electric tractor is 40 hp (diesel equivalent) also with an exchangeable battery pack. The eUtility tractor platform is based on conversions of new, 1950s-era Ford tractors built in India but running Solectrac's engine and battery systems protected by a specially designed hood.
"We get a brand-new, old tractor," Heckeroth said. "It's basically a conversion of a diesel, but without the pollution, without the need to idle, without the noise."
Solectrac boasts ease-of-maintenance with its units. Electric motors have one moving part, reducing the time and cost of maintenance needed to keep diesel- or gasoline-fueled engines running. Engine noise and diesel fumes are things of the past, Heckeroth said. "You can be around (an electric tractor) all day long without any hearing damage. Its quiet operation is really a big safety factor."
The tractor substitutes hydraulics with electric linear actuators. They provide 450 kilograms (992 pounds) of dynamic load and 1,360 kg (almost 3,000 lb.) of static loads. Engineers are working on a four-wheel-drive model. The eUtility currently has a base price of $45,000.
A fourth electric tractor -- the 4WD, 70 hp, e70N -- is under development. The unit targets vineyard and orchard applications. It will also include the swappable battery pack technology.
Solectrac raised funding in 2020 through a crowdfunding campaign and has been granted $500,000 from California's Bay Area Air Quality Management District from its Funding Agriculture Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions Demonstration Program, or FARMER program.
For more information: www.solectrac.com
EQUIPMENT SALES RUN STRONG
The year 2021 began with strong sales of farm tractors and combines, according to a new report from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. The report builds on unexpectedly strong sales in 2020, despite COVID-19 and widespread economic disruptions. Tractor sales were up nearly 25% in January 2021 compared to January 2020. Much of that activity was found in sales of tractors of less than 100 hp. Sales of 40-hp-and-below tractors jumped 32.9% during January 2021. Forty- to 100-hp-tractor sales rose 16.1%. In total, these two categories accounted for more than 14,000-unit sales.
Sales of tractors more common to commercial farms produced positive sales in January over a year ago. Two-wheel-drive tractor sales over 100 hp were up a narrow 1.2% over January 2020. This segment accounted for 1,387 tractors sold last month, compared to 1,371 a year ago.
Four-wheel-drive tractor sales were up 33.7% year over year. The actual number of units sold is not especially large -- 226 four-wheel-drive units sold last month, compared to 169 a year ago.
Self-propelled combine sales were also up over January 2020. Total combines sold in January 2021 totaled 350. That number compared to 198 a year ago.
See the report at: https://www.aem.org/…
DEERE ANNOUNCES STARTUP COLLABORATORS FOR 2021
Deere and Company has invited four startups with technologies of interest to the manufacturer to join its Startup Collaborator program. The companies include:
-- Nori: A company working to reverse climate change by building a carbon market where all types of consumers -- from individuals to large corporations -- can purchase carbon credits directly from farmers.
-- NVision Ag: A company working to help corn farmers make nitrogen management decisions based on data modeling and aerial imaging.
-- Scanit: A company that provides physical detection and classification of airborne plant pathogens before widespread disease onset.
-- Teleo: A company that is converting construction and mining equipment into teleoperated robots controlled by operators working remotely from a desk, thus unlocking productivity and operational gains for contractors.
"The Startup Collaborator program continues to build tremendous interactions between startups and John Deere," said Julian Sanchez, director of emerging technology for John Deere. "This year is no different as this diverse group of companies has great potential to transform our markets."
The Startup Collaborator program provides flexibility for Deere and startup companies to test innovative technologies with customers and dealers without a more formal business relationship.
AGCO BUILDING NEW TRAINING PROGRAM
AGCO Corporation has announced the creation of an agricultural manufacturing training program with Universal Technical Institute, a provider of trained technicians to the transportation industry. The new Fendt Technician Academy will launch at UTI's Lisle, Illinois, campus outside of Chicago, in fall 2021.
The 12-week program trains students to work with Fendt technology to gain in-depth knowledge about the brand's engines, powertrains, hydraulics, electronics and AGCO's Fuse technology.
Despite record numbers of Americans filing unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, demand has risen for skilled technicians across the transportation and agriculture industries.
Dan Miller can be reached at email@example.com
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