Ag-bots and e-rakes: 10 futuristic farm equipment innovations

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Biennial Agritechnica, the world’s largest farm equipment expo, attracts nearly half a million farmers and thousands of exhibitors. The most recent Agritechnica, held in Hamburg, Germany in November 2015, was the public Launchpad for hundreds of exciting innovations in the ag-equipment field.

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Here, in no particular order, are 10 of the next-gen ag technology and equipment innovations we can expect to find on farms of the near future.

1. World-first driverless ag machine

Dutch Power Company’s Greenbot

Netherlands-based ‘green industry and agricultural mechanisation’ umbrella group the Dutch Power Company used the latest Agritechnica as a springboard for its revolutionary Greenbot, reputedly the world’s first driverless agricultural machine.

Developed for professionals needing to carry out routine, repetitive tasks, such as those required in horticulture, fruit cultivation and agriculture, Greenbot can be programmed via user-friendly software to function fully independently and used to replicate tasks that have been recorded in advance using a tractor with a driver. Programs can also be activated remotely in the ‘teach and playback’ mode – in which case, Greenbot repeats the instructions before carrying out the task. The smart ag-bot is even capable of planning its own route and operations for particular applications, such as orchard-crop spraying or mowing.

2. Intelligent sensor-nozzle system

Amazone, Agrotop and Rometron: AmaSpot

Amazone’s smart sensor-nozzle system, developed jointly with Dutch intelligent agricultural solutions company Rometron, whose much-lauded WEEDit Ag system is sold throughout Australia, and spray technology experts Agrotop, enables the precise application of herbicides to targeted areas – down to the individual plant.

AmaSpot employs advanced infrared sensors to distinguish between green plants and bare soil, then uses an ultra-fast pulse width modulation and bespoke low-drift nozzles to apply a precise amount of nutrients, fertiliser or other inputs, depending on each plant’s size, at the roots.

The new modulation nozzles open and close in a split-second, allowing on and off switching to the exact centimetre at forward speeds of up to 20 km/h, so you only need treat the exact spots in which weeds or volunteer grains are growing. can be saved in comparison with full area treatments.

Its makers claim that when using glyphosate agents, and depending on drilling techniques, using AmaSpot can reduce rates of inputs by 20 to 80 percent. It is capable of detecting green plants to an accuracy of 1cm2.

3. Independently powered e-rake

Fendt E-Hay Rake

Typically, rotors on rotary rakes are powered mechanically, hydraulically or via the equipment’s driveshaft, but AGCO company Fendt has pioneered a rotary hay rake with an innovative integrated electric drive.

The Fendt Former 12555 X hay rake has a tractor-mounted 700V electric generator powering four torque engines, with an integral electric drive for each rotor, enabling the operator to drive the new e-rake’s rotors independently of both engine and tractor speed. The e-rake, which Fendt claims is exceptionally precise, efficient, eco-friendly and simple to service and maintain, will be on the market from late 2016.

4. All-round driver view technology

Deutz-Fahr Driver Extended Eyes 

With the increased dimensions of modern agricultural machinery making for restricted visibility, especially in the front area of the tractor, Driver Extended Eyes technology was created to improve safety.

Developed by German farm equipment firm Deutz-Fahr in collaboration with automative design company BFFT, the technology employs a series of cameras to give the driver 360° vision, including a bird’s-eye view, around the machine. A boon to heavy ag equipment operators from safety and productivity standpoints, Driver Extended Eyes are already operating on John Deere tractors and Fendt X/P combines. The technology, which won a silver medal in the Innovation Awards at Agritechnica 2015 out of a field of 311, will be available from Deutz-Fahr from the end of 2016.

5. Tractor-mounted topsoil mapper

Geoprospectors' Topsoil Mapper

Who has time to map pesky soil parameters? Now you can do it while you plant, till or haul stockfeed around the farm. Geoprospectors’ clever topsoil mapping tool can be mounted on the front hitch of any tractor, enabling you to map key soil parameters, such as compaction, water saturation and composition, while engaged in other time-critical tasks. The Topsoil Mapper netted an Agritechnica 2015 silver medal for Innovation.

6. Wholistic water and nutrient management system

John Deere Field Connect 

With energy costs high, water restrictions and limited allocations ubiquitous, and chemical application a growing input cost, farm equipment giant John Deere Field Connect™ moisture and nutrient management system, developed the in collaboration with Land Data Eurosoft, Rauch, Sulky and Vista, is timely.

The patented system provides a detailed, wholistic view of a farm’s water and nutrient needs year-round, monitoring soil moisture levels and feeding data to a web-based interface, which alerts you via any internet-connected device whenever moisture levels approach ‘full’ or ‘refill’ points enabling you to make timely irrigation decisions. The system also helps eliminate overwatering, reducing nutrient leaching and saving on fertiliser use and costs – which in turn has environmental benefits.

7. Auto-calibrating precision-seeding drill

Lemken Solitair Drill 

The highlight of the new Solitair drill from Lemken is its automated calibration process. All you need do to begin the calibration process is enter some key parameters, such as the thousand-seed grain weight, seeding rate and maximum working speed. The correct amount of seeds is then moved via a blower fan to a weighing unit in the machine’s hopper, resulting in precise planting and greatly reduced seed wastage.

8. Monitoring technology for combine harvesters

CLAAS Lexion 780-740 Automatic Crop Flow Monitoring 

This new system made for CLAAS’s Lexion combine harvesters allows you to monitor key components of the machinery, including the rotational speeds on the combine’s engine, the APS threshing mechanism and the Roto Plus residual grain separation mechanism. The system automatically alerts the combine operator whenever it approaches critical peak loads, which enables the operator to ‘push’ the combine close to its limit so as to maximise harvesting efficiency without wrecking expensive components.

9. Rapid tractor-tyre inflation system

Mitas AirCell 

Many farmers use air tyre inflation systems on their tractors to deflate tyres in the paddock and pump them back up before travelling on sealed roads. A common complaint about this method of tyre-pressure management is that the tractor must stand stationary with the engine running full bore to inflate the tyres.

AirCell – a unique inner tyre that sits on the inside rim of a traditional tyre, allowing for rapid inflation – was designed to remove this particular headache. It occupies only about 30 percent of the tyre volume but enables the inflation of even large agricultural tyres by +/- 1 bar (from 0.8 bar to 1.8 bar) within 30 seconds (more than 10 times faster than the current method of inflation, claim its makers).

AirCell, which won a gold medal at the most recent Agritechica, has been designed for the Mitas 710/75 R42 SFT but other sizes are set to follow. It will be available from November 2016.

10. State-of-the-art technology: Agritechnica’s 2016 Tractor of the Year

Fendt Vario 1050 

German tractor company Fendt’s brand-new Vario 1050, a fixed-frame tractor with an impressive 500bhp, is a world away from your average articulated tractor: its many benefits include a huge step up in driving comfort, a rollicking top speed of 37mph (around 65 kilometres an hour), a full load of cutting-edge technology an innovative integral drive train, and more. And at around 28,000 pounds ( kilograms), it is comparatively lightweight.

For these reasons and more, the Vario 1050 netted an Agritechnica award for 2016 Tractor of the Year; as well as silver medals for its integral drive train and its Grip Assistant (for ‘ideal ballasting and optimal tyre pressure’); Machine of the Year 2016 in the category Tractor XXL; and the Machine of the Year People’s Choice award. “I’m as happy as can be,” AGCO Senior Vice President and EAME GM Rob Smith said on scooping the Agritechnica prize pool.

For more futuristic farm equipment innovations, or to register for the next Agritechnica, in 2017, visit the official event site

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