Nearly anything to make an agricultural combine simpler and crop harvesting more productive could be considered a breakthrough. AGCO says they’ve done just that.
“A big focus for us in developing our Ideal combine was ‘simplicity,’” says Bob Crain in describing the 7 year process AGCO employed in developing its first totally new combine. “This means fewer belts, fewer gearboxes, easier to set combine controls depending on weather conditions, crop types, etc. We’ve built in a lot of automation to make our combine simpler with on-the-go adjustments. And just as important is the best-in-class uptime assurance program that comes with the Ideal combine.”
AGCO unveiled its new Fendt Ideal combine for the first time in North America during the 2018 Canada Farm Progress Show in Regina, Sask., on June 19. The next big unveil will be at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, in late August, according to Crain, senior vice president and general manager, Americas.
“When you raise the shields on our new combine you’ll be quite surprised at the simplicity of it compared to some of the other combines out in the industry today,” he says. “During development, we focused on more throughput, more productivity, better grain quality, along with making it simple to use, and better uptime. There are significant changes in the threshing and separating systems that are quite a bit different than what you’re accustomed to seeing in the industry right now. It has a really innovative unloading system.”
Without looking under the shields, what’s most striking about the Ideal combine is its black (some call it graphite gray) finish. Crain says the color selection was purposeful. “This is a different combine and we wanted to make the visuals different, something truly unique to make it stand out. The feedback that we’ve gotten so far indicates that our customers, throughout the world, think it’s a very unique design, a very unique looking machine. The black certainly makes it look big and powerful.”
He believes the Ideal combine has the potential to change the industry. It’s been decades since a new rotary combine hit the market. When you look at all the changes that have taken place with automobiles, phones and so many other products with new technology in the past 20-30 year, I think it’s time that somebody took that same approach with combines, and I believe we have the potential to do this,” say Crain.
The Ideal Technology
Expanding on Crain’s comments about focusing on keeping the Ideal combine as “simple” as possible, Caleb Schleder, tactical marketing manager for combines, AGCO North America, says, the new unit utilizes only about 13 belts, which is far less than what most other combines today use. “It’s not just belts, it’s also hydraulic lines, chains and gearboxes. There’s a large amount of equipment that is built into a combine to get the processes to work correctly. We’ve learned how to make it more efficient and more effective by utilizing fewer gearboxes, belts and pulleys, and making sure that we’re still doing that same job, but more efficiently and getting more throughput and capacity out of it.”
He adds that the “serviceability” of the new combine includes more access points. “It offers a lot capability to get in there and really maintain the equipment.”
Asked to pinpoint two or three areas that set the Ideal combine apart from other equipment, Schleder says, “The first would be the load system. When we talk about capacity, everybody wants the biggest and baddest machine, but what they sometimes fail to realize is that grain handling is the governing factor. So, if you can hit X number of bushels per hour and your trucks can only take away Y number of bushels, which is typically lower, you’ll end up just sitting in the field and wait.”
Ideal’s load system includes what AGCO says is the industry’s largest grain tank (485 bushels) with an unload rate of 6 bushels per second. This is 50% more than the 4 bushels per second typical of other combines, including the company’s Gleaner brand.
“So, we’re actually two bushels per second faster, which, considering the number of times an operator has to unload over the course of a day, makes a major difference in time and efficiency,” says Schleder.
This unload feature is standard on the Ideal class 9 model and optional on class 7 and 8 units, which have a standard unload rate of 4 bushels per second.
In terms of automation, Schleder says, the Ideal harvest system is “completely different” from what is currently being used in the industry. “One of the biggest things that sets our system apart from others is the visualization if offers. It used to be whenever the operator needed to check the shoe load, he would need to kill the machinery, get out and walk around the combine. Because of the specialized sensors installed on our new combine, without leaving the cab, he’s able to see crop flow and make adjustments whenever needed.”
This is accomplished with a special grain-quality camera and 52 sensors, including mass acoustic detection sensors (MADS). By measuring the differences in acoustic qualities, the sensors can determine what is grain and what is not and direct the harvest system to change the necessary combine settings. A touch-screen tablet allows the operator to select preferences for minimizing grain damage, loss and material other than grain (MOG) in the bin. In addition, the Ideal harvest system can compensate for sudden shifts in various factors, such as crop density and field slope, anticipating and correcting problems before they occur.
Another feature that Schleder says sets the Ideal combine apart is its TrakRide system and its narrow chassis design. At less than 11 feet in width, the company says it’s the narrowest frame of any combine in the North American market, which improves maneuverability and offers road speeds of nearly 25 mph. Equipped with wide ag tires or tracks, weight distribution is evened out resulting in decreased soil compaction.
Improving Grain Quality
Along with the productivity and operational gains AGCO is claiming for its Ideal combine, Schleder adds the improving grain quality also has equal precedence. “The terms we use for defining grain quality is MOG (material other than grain) and FM (foreign material). The other aspect is cracks and splits. These are the things checked at the grain elevator when a farmer sells his crop and impacts its value.”
The company tackled this issue with the development of a dual helix rotor, which Schleder says is a “very different design from what you would see in other axial rotary combines because it’s designed specifically for gentle handling of the grain.”
He explains that the system utilizes “grain on grain threshing” vs. mechanical threshing. This is accomplished with the use of its uniquely designed dual helix rotors, which are available in the Ideal’s class 8 and 9 models. Schleder says the rotors are 16 feet long. “These are the industry’s longest. But we’re still able to provide gentle separation while expelling it out of the cage efficiently with critical force without causing cracks or splits.”
When it comes to grain quality, he explains, everything is tied to the shoe. “We’ve created the Ideal Balance shoe. In rotary combines, you’ll typically see a heavier load on the right or the left side, but with our dual helix, we’re able to manage this. The design also includes two specially molded return pans that use the full length of the separation chamber to distribute the crop evenly over the cleaning shoe, even on hillsides. That allows us to manage that shoe load, get the optimum amount of air cleaning and making sure that we’re pushing the foreign material and MOG out of the machine.”
Distribution & Service
Full-fledged retailing of the new Ideal combine will start in 2019, but a select group of Fendt Ideal dealers will begin introducing the new harvester to North America by way of scheduled demonstrations. “We’re going to distribute the new combines only through a Fendt Ideal dealer network,” says Crain.
“We’re going to look at dealers on an individual basis, the market or the industry size and what that opportunity represents. We’re going to be looking at the combine experience that the individual dealers possess. And just as important, the passion that the dealership has for the combine business. Last, but certainly not least, arguably more important than anything else will be the customer support capabilities of the dealership.”
He says customers of the new combine will be supported by what AGCO calls the Ideal Promise that include 24 hour uptime assurance service option. This will provide customers with 24/7 access to their service specialists, which is the centerpiece of a 3-year extended warranty.
According to the company, should an Ideal combine require service, dealer technicians will diagnose the problem and identify the parts needed within 12 hours. If the repair is not completed within 24 hours of the service technician’s diagnosis, the dealer will dispatch a loaner unit — free of charge — until the combine is repaired. In addition, the service package is transferable to the next owner. It also includes a maintenance program that features a 250 hour and out-of-season service package, including all fluids and filters.
Crain adds, “The product lineup that we have out in the field right now is the best we’ve ever had. And I’d like to tell our dealers and our own team that this is only the tip of the iceberg on what we’re going to see coming down the road in the next 3-4 years. “This Fendt Ideal combine is just one piece of it.”