Farm Equipment sent 11 staffers to the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, to cover the latest innovations and trends in the farm equipment market. What follows are the most noteworthy product launches, industry notes and trending news editors found impacting the North American farm machinery market. For more on what our editors saw, heard and experienced on the show grounds, visit Farm Equipment’s Facebook and Twitter pages (#FPS18). You can also find additional coverage and exclusive video interviews on www.Farm-Equipment.com.
AGCO’s Ideal Combine Draws Crowds
Perhaps the biggest storyline at the show was AGCO’s new Fendt Ideal combine. After AGCO first revealed the machine earlier this summer at the Canada Farm Progress Show in Regina, Sask., the company had three of them on display in Boone. This was a good thing, said company officials, given the constant crowd that the combines were attracting to the AGCO tent. AGCO says the company has spent 7 years developing the product up to this point. The development process included customer and dealer feedback at every step. The design of the Ideal essentially started from scratch, the first such “clean sheet” axial combine in 30 years.
In an interview with Farm Equipment at the Farm Progress Show, Bob Crain, AGCO senior vice president and general manager, Americas, says the new combine will be rolled out slowly. Only 11 dealers will initially sell the Ideal, with more dealers added in the fourth quarter, with possibly around 100 dealers carrying it by 2019, he says. The Ideal is expected to be fully rolled out in 2020.
“We are truly taking a ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach,” he says.
The combine will be available in Class 7, 8 and 9 to match the harvest capacity needed by any operation. More details on the Ideal combine can be found in previous coverage by Farm Equipment.
Case IH Unveils New Series Axial-Flow Combines for 2019
Case IH also introduced its new 250 series combine, new for 2019. Ryan Blasiak, harvesting marketing manager, summed up the developments in three areas. These include several enhancements to the feeder house (fore-aft adjustments) top shaft assembly area, support for heavier heads and narrow-row chopping heads. Second is the optional in-cab adjustments to change the position of the cage vane angle to slow or accelerate grain material through the combine and the technology offering. And third, Blasiak says, is the standard-issue AFS Connect is to allow dealers to better diagnose and be aware of service intervals to help customers in downtime/update. “Plus, the optional Harvest Command automation allows any driver to be a seasoned combine operator,” he says, noting that 16 sensors allow the seamless adjustment of 7 different combine functions.
Deere Enters Vertical Tillage Market
John Deere marked its entrance into the crowded vertical tillage market at the Farm Progress Show with the release of its new 2660VT Variable-Intensity Tillage Tool.
The unit is based on a shallow concavity Commander blade. According to Deere, the 2660VT allows operators to customize the gang angle from 0 degrees for sizing residue and vertical soil movement, to 12 degrees for aggressive horizontal soil movement and to bury crop residue. The gang angle can be adjusted with a manual slider or with TruSet Tillage Technology for more precise, one-degree adjustments and prescription tillage capabilities from the cab.
Automated, on-the-go TruSet tillage depth and rolling basket pressure adjustments, as well as documentation and prescription-based tillage on the Generation 4 Display, are standard on both five-section and three-section models.
Some would argue the Deere unit isn’t true vertical tillage. Curt Davis, director of marketing and product management for Kuhn Krause doesn’t consider anything over a 10-degree angle to be vertical tillage. Mike Cleveland, vice president of sales for Great Plains agrees. “If a farmer wants to own a high-speed disc, that’s fine; there’s a lot of them out there. But if you want vertical tillage, if it’s got a concave blade running at an angle it’s not vertical. That’s our position. We tell our dealers that. And we tell farmers that,” says Cleveland.
“True vertical tillage, it’s not that crowded. There’s a crowded market in what we call the high-speed disc business, but true vertical tillage is not that crowded. There’s us (Great Plains), Summers and Salford to my knowledge that run a true vertical tillage tool with blades on it,” says Cleveland.
According to other manufacturers, the Deere unit is very similar to other products on the market and in some instances has near identical parts. “We’ve had vertical tillage in the market for a number of years and at Kuhn Krause we evaluated what the customers were looking for and came up with a machine,” Davis says. “You really have to be in the market to know what the customers are after and they’ve obviously taken what they think is going to work and that’s probably where we differ between companies. I’m not sure what they’re expecting to gain in the vertical tillage market with a product that is very similar to others in the industry,” Davis says.
Great Plains, Summers and Kuhn-Krause all say they have concern over Deere continuing its push for dealer purity. “If they’re truly going to gain purity with their dealers, then they’ve got to provide the products that John Deere dealers are sourcing from other manufacturers. And this fills one of their holes,” Cleveland says.
“We’ve got quite a few dealers who represent Kuhn Krause who are John Deere dealers and I’m sure that pressure will be coming from their major manufacturer to carry the John Deere machine,” Davis says. “But again, we have to go back to performance, industry longevity, the history that we have and the differential items with the machine that we know we can perform well and what the customer is after. Those customers will end up telling the story in the end of what they’re looking for and what performs better.”
High Speed Tillage Debuts, Too
In addition to vertical tillage solution that it developed in-house, John Deere also showcased its freshly unveiled 2680H unit, or what it calls its high-performance, high-speed tillage tool as its entrant into the high-speed tillage business. The 2680 unit is licensed from Fargo’s Norwood Sales (which they brand as Kwik-Till), and was the first time seen following an announcement last June. Paul Richardel, John Deere Tillage Product Line Manager notes that it is operated at 12-14 mph, to incorporate residue the front and leave a nice seedbed in the back. “We recognized that a lot of farmers want to faster,” he says, pointing out that going wider is not always desired by the farmer.
Eric Broadbent, director of sales for Kinze Manufacturing, gave an update on the the Mach-Till (licensed from Degelman and made in Kinze’s plant) that was announced last January. “It started out as a manufacturing agreement and then modified its way into into a licensing agreement,” he says, noting that Kinze produces Pro-Tills (Degelman brand) and Mach-Tills for both companies.
Broadbent says the Mach-Till was attractive to give dealers a totally new equipment segment from Kinze. “Dealers were looking for this type of product from Kinze and this segment of tillage is growing at a rapid rate and our dealers can embrace that upswing as it continues to grow.”
Results from dealers and customers have been better than anticipated. “We’re on target to meeting its second-year sales goal in year one,” he says. He added that Kinze also created a new product specialist position (unique in Kinze’s culture) in Justin Render as to assist dealers and growers with the new segment. “As all tillage is, everyone wants to see it run in their backyward. We’re doing 16 different midwest events this fall to demonstrate it.”
Autonomy Continues to Advance
Kicking off Tuesday with a press conference followed by live field demo, Ames, Iowa, technology developer Smart Ag unveiled its AutoCart autonomous technology. Designed to assist with labor shortages on farms, the aftermarket kit can be implemented into the cab of a combine during grain harvest to control a tractor in a separate part of the field.
The system comes with an additional remote farmers can use to stop the tractor immediately when needed. With price points estimated between $35,000-$40,000, AutoCart is currently being run on a limited scope with John Deere equipment and anticipated for a full commercial release in 2019, according to Mark Barglof, chief technology officer for Smart Ag.
“Right now, the system works for 8R series tractors, but as we continue into the future we plan to increase the types of equipment the system can run on it,” says Barglof. “We’ve got partnerships with Bottom Line Solutions in Illinois, and AgriVision, a local Deere dealer.”
xarvio Introduces Weed, Disease Detection to North America
Germany-based xarvio Digital Farming Solutions introduced its new scouting app, with image recognition technology to identify — with near 90% certainty — 11 known diseases and 11 weed species in the U.S. Farmers have the ability to take an early-stage, in-field photo and cross-reference the image in the scouting apps database to identify the disease or weed.
Based on several hundred thousand images and machine learning algorithms, the app also assigns a “confidence index” percentage with the classification,
"Within the next 2-3 years, we'll be rolling out smart sprayer technology that uses this same image recognition technology," says David Gray, U.S. commercial manager. "As the sprayer is rolling through the field, cameras will recognize different weed varieties and select from multiple herbicides to best suit conditions and reduce over spraying and weed resistance."
Claas Introduces ‘First Claas Used’
Claas introduced its new First Claas Used program for used equipment. The program has three classifications — Gold, Silver and Bronze. The Gold level is exclusively for combines that are 5 years old or newer with fewer than 2,500 engine hours. Silver covers combines and forage harvesters, also 5 years or newer and fewer than 2,500 hours. The bronze classification is open to all Claas equipment and contains no hour minimums.
Dealers who are interested in participating in the program must send a technician for training to become a First Claas Used certified technician, says Allen Miller, remarketing manager for Claas. The company also introduced Click to dealers ahead of the launch. It’s an inspection app that allows the dealer to walk around the unit and check all the areas needed for the machine to go up on fcu.claas.com, the site farmers can search for certified used Claas equipment.
The program is only available through the Claas dealer network.
360Sprint Seeks to Set Pace of Fertilizer Refilling
360 Yield Center debuted a prototype of its new 360Sprint machine, designed for on-the-go liquid fertilizer refills. A 300-gallon tank, mounted on a John Deere Gator, has a connector in the front that can attach to a moving planter in the field and refill liquid nitrogen or starter fertilizer on the planter. With the ability to cover as much as 30% more acres in a day, the company field tested 4 machines this spring including on founder Gregg Sauder’s farm.
“Farmers are spending a lot of money on high-speed planters and to be sitting as much as 12 minutes to refill fertilizer, as much as 10 times per day, that’s more than 100 acres a day lost on pitstops,” Sauder says. “This system can load 300 gallons in less than 4 minutes and we see broader use with farmers looking to chase strip-till bars in fall to add liquid N.”
OEMs Broaden Base of Factory-Direct Precision
Ag equipment manufacturers continued the trend of integrating more precision technology into equipment from the factory, expanding inclusions to include more data-centric tools. Case IH announced the inclusion of its AFS Connect portal for model year 2019 base models of its 250 combine series, Magnum and Steiger tractors. The 1-year subscription, priced at $500, allows for file transfer and review of collected agronomic and machine data, says Chris Dempsey, Case IH marketing manager.
John Deere also expanded its precision features in base large ag equipment for 2018, with inclusion of its AutoTrac Universal 300 steering system ($3,000 list price) and software updates to its Gen 4 displays. With the frequency that farmers trade equipment, `
Matt Olson, precision marketing manager for Deere, says inclusion of precision hardware and software is expected on sales of used equipment.
“Activations are just as attached to that equipment as the steering wheel and tires,” he says. “For dealers, it simplifies the sales process and provides more value to that used equipment.”
Dealers Offer Uber Service to Customers
Four-wheeled transportation is increasingly common at the Farm Progress Show, with companies and attendees opting for golf carts to navigate the aisles. But dealers are taking advantage of the option as both a mobile marketing tool and literal vehicle to showcase vendor products and casually talk business with customers. Our staff spotted at least 3 dealerships, and rode along with one, offering on-demand pick-up and drop-off for customers.
HTS Ag, based in Harlan, Iowa, about 2 hours from the show grounds in Boone, rented 3 golf carts to transport attendees around the show. The dealership had a stationary booth at the 2010 show, but wanted to find a more personal and economical way to interact with attendees. So rather than spending thousands of dollars on a booth, the dealership spent a few hundred dollars renting the carts.
“It’s been a great way to answer questions from customers on products or companies we work with and then make an introduction to someone from that vendor,” says Adam Gittins, general manager with HTS Ag. “I’ve also been able to provide and discuss product quotes with customers and follow up with them right after the show to close a sale on something they saw here.”
Analyst Cites Precision ‘Arms Race,’ Holistic Approach by OEMs
In a note to investors, Baird analyst Mircea (Mig) Dobre, who was one of a number of analysts attending the Farm Progress Show, said OEMs are focused on providing solutions through the crop cycle. Specifically, Deere and AGCO “highlighted the importance and buildout of solutions through the crop cycle to maximize efficiency,” he said.
Dobre said the precision farming “arms race” remains in full swing among manufacturers, which was prominently on display during the farm show.
“Precision ag continues to be a highlight of the show, with new model year features on display, though this year manufacturers seemed to put forth a more holistic approach helping farmers with crop decision-making process through the year,” he added.
Other observations from Dobre include:
• Deere emphasized a three-pronged approach of better machine performance, job performance and agronomic decisions
• AGCO has positioned itself as the only end-to-end provider, given its GSI grain-storage business
• Along with the introduction of the Fendt IDEAL combine, AGCO is looking to increase competition in the combine market, aiming to double its approximately $300 million global combine business within 3-5 years
• Overall industry sentiment got a slight boost with the announcement of the USDA assistance package for farmers suffering from tariffs, though overall trade tensions still add uncertainty
For more on editors’ observations at the Farm Progress Show, tune into the “Farm Progress Show” video series available on www.farm-equipment.com