R&D as far as the eye can see
Each year the U.S. Farm Progress Show attracts tens of thousands of visitors. It's the premier outdoor ag event in the Midwest, and it alternates between show sites at Decatur, Illinois, and Boone, Iowa. This year's event was in Boone, and despite the downturn in the ag equipment market, it was clear manufacturers haven't cut back their R&D budgets too severely. They had a lot to talk about and show to prospective buyers at their displays.
Grainews took in the August show along with the associated product launches held by the major manufacturers. Here's a look at some of the highlights from the show grounds. Watch for more in the pages of upcoming Grainews issues.
Versatile has added two new models to its line of front-wheel assist tractors. The new 335 and 360 horsepower models push the line's maximum power ratings higher, using a T4F Cummins QSL 9.0 litre diesel under their hoods. A heavier version of the 16 x 9 powershift transmission used in the existing FWA models delivers the power, and the chassis ride on suspended front axles that come as standard equipment. But they can still be down spec'd to a rigid axle. There's also a new monitor option inside the cab.
AGCO unveiled its 1000 Series very high horsepower, rigid-frame tractor wearing Challenger yellow. Last November this tractor officially debuted as the 1000 Series Fendt at the Agritechnica machinery show in Germany. Making it available in the Challenger brand significantly adds to the number of Canadian and U.S. dealers able to sell and service it.
Other than their livery, there's no real difference between the Fendt and Challenger models. Four size options span the 396 to 517 horsepower range, making these machines the most powerful tractors in this configuration. AGCO executives say they think the real advantage of this design with that much horsepower is its versatility.
The field bin concept, which is popular in Australia, seems to making an impression on some farmers here. Iowa-based Demco showed its 3,000 bushel model. Field bins are designed to be positioned in a field and act as temporary storage to keep combines rolling. It prevents full hoppers from forcing combines to stop and wait to unload when they get ahead of the truck.
Yes, you read that right. The classic—albeit low production—Big Bud tractor brand is set to make a comeback. In case something from the current offering of 600-or-so horsepower tractors from the major brands isn't enough for you, Rome Plow intends to start building the iconic Big Buds, beginning with two models rated at 655 and 755 horsepower. Production is set to begin at Rome's Georgia plant, and the company expects to have a 755 model ready for the farm show circuit by next summer.
There are no specs available yet, other than the tractors will likely use Allison transmissions.
The Tribine, which blends the combine with a grain cart, is now going into production. Initially shown as a concept a few years ago, the company has finished its development and is ready to take customer orders. Capable of carrying 1,000 bushels in the rear, this machine doesn't need to unload nearly as often as a regular combine. It uses the company's own high-capacity rotary threshing mechanism and can mate with any commonly-available header.
Case IH robot Magnum
It's what really had people talking, Case IH's robot Magnum. Built without an operator's station and created as a completely automated machine, this tractor had a permanent crowd around it. It can be controlled wirelessly from a tablet for manual steering or have a field map programmed into it and set to run all by itself.
But don't think you can park one in your shed just yet. It's still a concept machine, and Case IH was conducting a survey with farmers to get their views on how a robotic tractor might be best used on their farms. Future development of any autonomous tractor will depend a lot on what input the brand gets, said executives.
New Holland, Case IH's sister brand, also displayed their version of an autonomous tractor. A production T8 fitted with a robotics package could be used as either a conventional tractor or run autonomously just like its Magnum cousin.
Executives at NH think the dual operation capability (robotic and conventional) make this the logical next step in automation. They said they were even kicking around the idea of producing a retrofit “kit” that could make any tractor a robot, just as it does on the T8.
And just like at Case IH's display, the company was looking for feedback on the idea. There was no firm word on when it or the autonomous Magnum, will get to market.
Kubota has publicly declared its intention to become a full-line ag equipment brand, and recent moves by the company have moved it quite a way along that route. Ever since it acquired Norwegian haying and tillage implement manufacturer Kverneland, Kubota has been offering round balers developed by Kverneland wearing the Kubota brand name. However, the models available could only produce the smaller four-foot wide bales. And that didn't spark much interest from commercial livestock producers.
Now, the company is introducing a baler that can build a 5 x 6 foot bale. The model on display at the show was set to hit the U.S. market. Product reps said the Canadian launch of this baler will occur later this fall.