For as long as I can remember, John Deere has been the first out of the chute with new product introduction for the summer season. Other major manufacturers hold new product launches later in the summer closer to the farm shows, but Deere usually opens the season and, in some ways, sets the tone for the intros that follow.
Last week's media day at Deere's combine factory in Moline, Illinois, carried on that early start tradition. Among the highlights: Deere introduced a new portable display, re-introduced the 5R Series tractors, the 4 Series sprayers and the C850 Air Cart (all of which launched at the National Farm Machinery Show in February), and talked about some planter improvements.
The star of Deere's show was the latest in the S-Series combines: the new S700 Series. This sleek series has come a long way since the debut in 2012 of the S600, John Deere says. You wouldn't know that from looking at the exterior styling, which has not changed much. But under the green skin, a rapid evolution has been taking place. Deere engineers have added technologies to make the machines smarter, more efficient and more productive. The latest suite of these technologies is called "Combine Advisor," and it's available on the new S700 series combines, which will be available in time for harvest 2018.
Besides making the machines smarter, Deere says, Combine Advisor will help farmers who face an inconvenient reality in today's agricultural scene: It's often hard to find experienced help. So any new technologies must be easy to learn and easy to use.
"No matter what level of operator is operating, no matter what crop conditions they are in, Combine Advisor is there to partner with our customers and get the most out of their machine," said Cyndee Smiley Dolan, division marketing manager.
Deere will offer four models of the S700 combines that step up in size from the S760 to the S770, S780 and S790.
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Among the Combine Advisor technologies on the S700s are a pair of ActiveVision cameras mounted on the clean grain and tailings elevators. The cameras can analyze what's going through the elevators and make a real-time assessment of how changing harvest conditions affect combine performance.
For instance, if the cameras detect a larger-than-optimal quantity of damaged grain in the materials flow, algorithms in the combine's computers kick in. The machine can automatically change the cleaning shoe fan speed, rotor speed, concave clearance, chaffer opening or sieve opening to make the combine operate more efficiently based on current crop and field conditions. The operator can see on a monitor what the cameras see and manually make changes too.
If the slope of the field changes by as little as 4 degrees, a feature called ActiveTerrain kicks it. It can adjust the fan speed, chaffer and sieve to maximize grain retention. ActiveYield technology automatically calibrates mass-flow sensors to ensure accurate harvest data without time-consuming manual calibrations.
"This machine can sense opportunities to improve combine performance as conditions change," Dolan said.
Not so large in size, but certainly not to be overlooked, is the new 4640 Universal Display, which is part of Deere's Generation 4 Operating system. A key feature is portability. The 4640 display easily can be moved from machine to machine, said John Mishler, production and precision ag marketing manager. "Some enhancements built into the display include more on-screen help and diagnostic information to keep operators running and informed of their display capabilities."
The 4640 is app-based, meaning owners can configure it according to their specific needs by loading applications. It can work with older Deere machines as well as some compatible machines from competitive brands. An optional extended monitor lets the operator work on separate operations at the same time.
In a break from the pricing structure of previous Deere displays (such as the GreenStar 3), the 4640 requires a purchase price plus a subscription rather than a purchase price plus one-time unlocking fee as has been typical with displays. The subscription approach can be half the cost of some one-time unlock fees, at least at the beginning, Mishler said. "A little different approach, but it really drives down the cost of activation."
It will be interesting to see if Deere's price structure experiment causes serious blowback or if customers will readily accept it as a new way of paying for displays.
Jim Patrico can be reached at email@example.com
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