A Peek Into The Future

The world's largest farm show provides a look at the latest technology in ag equipment.

Future technologies and concepts, such as Fendt’s robot planter, were on display at the 2017 Agritechnica in Hannover, Germany, Image by Jim Patrico

Every other year, the agricultural equipment world looks to Hannover, Germany, to see what the near future holds.

Farmers, company reps and gearheads descend on Hannover for Agritechnica, the largest agricultural trade show on earth, which takes place only in odd-numbered years. Manufacturers from all across the globe use the show as a launch pad for new products or concepts that one day might be on dealer lots.

The showgrounds cover about 100 acres and have more than 20 buildings packed with finished products, components and software displays. Last fall’s show had more than 2,800 exhibitors from 53 countries and drew about 450,000 visitors. The theme for this show was “Green Future--Smart Technology.”

In keeping with the theme, robotic equipment was everywhere. Electric vehicles also were trending.

Here are some examples:

Robot Planter. Imagine swarms of 3-foot-long robots planting corn fields. Thiemo Buchner, Fendt project leader for robots, has spent the last two years refining that idea and says a robot named Xaver will be in production and for sale by 2019. The project originated with the name Mobile Agricultural Robot Swarms (MARS) and was a joint effort among government and private interests. Fendt and parent company AGCO have moved it forward.

The battery-powered robot can carry about 25,000 corn seeds and will hold a charge for up to three working hours. Then, it will head to the recharge station, refill with corn, recharge and head back to work. A swarm of 10 Xavers can plant a 100-acre field in 40 hours, working 24/7 with no human supervision.

This vision might not work as well for North American farmers as for European farmers. Size is one reason. At the stated planting rate, it would take more than two weeks to plant 1,000 acres. That’s probably not fast enough. Second, Xaver only weighs about 140 pounds, too light to cut a furrow in unworked ground. That requires primary and maybe secondary tillage passes in advance of planting. Fine for Europe; not as acceptable in North America.

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But, Buchner says Xaver is scalable. So, the concept might have a future here yet.

Electric Tractor. Fendt also displayed the e100 Vario at Agritechnica. This 67-hp, totally electric tractor is aimed at the same market as Fendt’s 200 Vario: intensive small acreages such as vineyards and orchards. The e100 Vario also will have other applications where it’s vital to have no CO2 emissions such as indoors in greenhouses. Municipalities might like it to cut air pollution.

The e100 has a working charge of five hours and two options for recharging its 650-volt high-capacity lithium-ion battery. A direct voltage supercharger takes one hour; a standard electrical hookup takes five hours.

The tractor comes with pto connections for hydraulic implements and 700-volt outlets for electric implements.

Product marketing specialist Christoph Stehling says the e100 Vario will undergo field trials beginning this year. Goal for production and sales is 2020 or 2021.

StalkBuster. Western Europe has seen an increase in corn borer, probably as a result of wetter growing seasons. To combat the problem, Kemper Maschinenfabrik GmbH and John Deere collaborated on a device to blast cornstalks to bits as a combine goes through the field.

Available in 2018 in North America, the StalkBuster is integrated into the header and uses an angled spinning blade to destroy--not cut--stalks. That can save a field pass with a shredder. Kemper has not yet released power requirements or costs.

Traffic Alert. Seasonal traffic of large farm equipment on the roads sometimes leads to accidents with civilian vehicles. CLAAS has developed a GPS-based system to cut the odds a car and a tractor will collide on the highway. Its Telematics Large Vehicle Alert System works in conjunction with automotive guidance systems. The tractor/combine/sprayer on the road sends a signal that interfaces with a car’s guidance system. An alert pops up on the car’s GPS screen warning that a large vehicle is approaching. Currently, CLAAS is partnering with BMW and also is talking with other automotive manufacturers and Google.

EZ Ballast. To add or subtract weight quickly from a tractor, John Deere previewed a hydraulic system that can be operated from the cab of a 7R tractor. Called EZ Ballast, the system uses a dedicated hydraulic cylinder in the center bottom of the tractor frame where it doesn’t affect ground clearance. The driver positions the tractor over a cast-iron frame; the system grabs and raises the 1.7-ton weight. The driver then locks the ballast in place with another push of a button in the cab.

Reverse the system to lose the ballast, and it makes roading more fuel efficient.

Deere is looking for customer interest before officially launching the system, which might also be adaptable for 6R tractors.

New Holland Dynamic Command. The T6.175 Dynamic Command tractor from New Holland won a Machine of the Year award at Agritechnica for its category. Key to the win was the new eight-step semipowershift dual-clutch transmission.

The transmission “reduces the number and improves the quality of gear shifts during operation, making these tractors a valuable asset to the fleets of dairy and livestock producers, hay and forage operations, and row-crop farmers,” New Holland says. T6 models range from 95 to 125 pto horsepower, with a choice of 2WD and 4WD axles. The T6 line of tractors launched last summer in North America.

AmaSpot Spray Technology. German sprayer manufacturer Amazone has combined several established technologies to a system that reduces chemical use while targeting weeds in bare soils.

AmaSpot uses a chlorophyll recognition sensor similar to that used by GreenSeeker to recognize green plants. The system then triggers precise bursts of herbicide to eliminate the weeds. Solenoids like those used in pulse width modulation sprayers keep the targeted spray at appropriate volumes even at night and even when the sprayer is moving at 12 mph.

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