HANOVER, Germany (DTN) -- Tom Eppinga had come a long way for this -- nearly 4,600 miles -- and it didn't disappoint.
He stood in front of the New Holland CR11 combine, one of the premier machines exhibited at the biennial Agritechnica machinery show in Hanover, Germany, and looked up in awe.
"Goosebumps," he said.
He wasn't alone. The newest combine from New Holland was unveiled to the public in Hanover on Sunday morning in dramatic fashion. Lights flashed and music boomed until a curtain surrounding the machine fell away, revealing it painted gold.
The gold color was for a reason: The machine earned the only gold medal of this year's Agritechnica Innovation Awards given at the show that featured more than 2,800 exhibitors from 52 countries.
"I was looking forward to this day, and I knew we had something good here," said Lars Sorensen, CNH Industrial's global product line leader for combines. "We've had customer focus groups, and you could feel their excitement. But to then receive the gold medal, I didn't even dream of that. Typically, it's concept vehicles that get the gold medals, but to have a machine that's production-ready get it, that makes us extra proud."
The combine, to be built in CNHI's Zedelgem, Belgium, production center, ran on farms this last harvest season and will be out to customers and dealers for the 2024 season. New Holland didn't offer a firm commitment as to when the machine will go into full production, or a price when it does.
BIG GRAINS, BIG GAINS
The company got to a gold medal by nearly starting over in the design of a combine. Sorensen balks at the idea of them going back to a clean sheet or "square one," but the machine has 90% new parts.
The company says the result is a 20%-40% increase in efficiency, a harvester altogether faster, stronger and cleaner than the current CR line. The company will continue to sell those combines and has plenty of faith in them, but they're nevertheless more than 20 years old.
"Everything in this is redesigned," Sorensen said. "Every generation of machine has a lifespan. You introduce them into the marketplace, you do updates, you find better ways to get more capacity, but at a certain point, you reach a limit. There's no way we can put more material through the current machine. So, you have to evaluate, what do we do now? The current CR has served us very well and for years, so there's nothing wrong with them. We're just building this on top of it."
On the practical end, the CR11 was built with 25% fewer belts, zero drive chains and dozens of interior changes to bump efficiency.
On the technological end, it boasts a cab bristling with precision ag capability and a new radar-enabled chopper and chaff system. Not spreading evenly enough? It auto-adjusts, up to 60 feet.
There are also automated systems crafted to try to prevent an operator from leaving that cab for anything this side of lunch and quitting time.
"If the operator is unlucky and blocked his combine, the combine will say 'I am blocked. Do you want me to unblock the rotors for you?'" Sorensen said. "Within 10 minutes, it will unblock itself. That is a first, and he (the operator) does not have to leave the cab."
SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM
Eppinga, the Canadian farmer who traveled halfway around the world to see the combine he's coveted, currently runs five machines on his western Canada grain farm, and finding five warm bodies to keep them running during harvest is one of the most persistently difficult parts of managing his farm.
He's hoping the big promises of efficiency that come with the CR11 change that.
Ideally, he'd like to cut down to just three machines.
"The No. 1 thing this combine is going to do is get rid of people on my farm," he said. "We can't find operators. That's why I'm so excited."
He said he's been searching high and low for ways to speed up harvest, to add to his operation's acres per hour.
"We've had a real problem in that we couldn't go up the next of acres per hour. We were at a standstill. We tried different things," Eppinga said. "This brings chills. We've been waiting on this thing for a long time. It has huge technology, and it will mean more profit, less machinery and more efficiency."
Joel Reichenberger can be reached at Joel.Reichenberger@dtn.com
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