There is broad consensus about the growing demand for food and feed over the next 50 years. Along with that comes the realization and responsibility of sustainable agricultural production. Picardie is a very progressive region of France with a vast agricultural footprint and vibrant industrial base. In addition to machinery makers like AGCO, the region is home to agronomic service companies as well major educational institutions that support the vast French and European farm economy. Over the past couple of years, regional policy and business leaders in Picardie have been discussing ways to harness this potential. The culmination of these discussions was the announcement of a Chair of Agro-Machinery at the SIMA show in Paris earlier this year. The Agro-Machinery Chair will be located at the Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais campus in France. AGCO is one of the four founding members of the Chair along with the Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais, Michelin and the Picardie regional government, the latter being a priority region for European research funding.
The objectives of the Agro-machinery Chair are two fold,
- Develop research capabilities that will offer value to the industrial sector so that our future designs meet sustainable farming and environmental needs.
- Train students with a dual expertise in engineering and agronomy, as well the training of machinery company personnel on agronomic issues.
Thus, it will serve as a vital link between evolving agronomic practices and future machinery solutions.
Initially there will be two dedicated professors, one active in agronomic issues, and the other to focus on integrated machinery solutions. A steering committee has been formed to oversee the Chair, and a scientific committee to advise the Chair on research projects and proposals.
While the search for professors is in full swing, AGCO R&D team is already active in engaging LaSalle faculty and other partners. A planning workshop concluded that the Chair’s focus should be man-machinery-environment interaction. Another fresh initiative was a 3 day training event organized by LaSalle Agronomy faculty to introduce senior managers and engineers from AGCO and Michelin to soil health and sustainability issues, and culminated in an intensive brainstorming session. The training exposed all participants to the variability and uncertainties of agriculture and was very much appreciated by all them. We are already planning another session for key AGCO participants!
LaSalle and AGCO have forged a great partnership already and once the Agro-Machinery faculty is fully in place the cooperation is sure to grow strongly!
“I remember myself as a boy of 15 or 16,” says Ami Brochin, a farmer in Israel’s northern Negev desert. “We could plant only wheat because that was the only thing you could grow here with the rainfall.
“With what God gives you, is what you have,” he says through a translator. “We would pray for rain so we would have something to cut at the end of the season.”
Even in a good year, annual precipitation in the northern Negev averages from 100 to 200 millimeters (approximately 4 to 8 inches). Making matters more difficult, rain usually comes in winter only, and groundwater is often brackish and less than ideal for farming or most other uses.
Citizens of a certain age remember a feeling of hopelessness that would almost overwhelm them at times. Wars were fought over water, and the very survival of Israel and its neighbors was threatened by the lack thereof.
So, to make up for the climate’s shortcomings, the Israelis began an ambitious national effort to develop new ways of farming and managing water, including an enormous public works campaign. A new network of reservoirs was built, as were desalination and wastewater treatment plants, and the public was educated on how to use less of the precious resource.
After a few decades, recalls Brochin and others we interviewed, despair turned to hope and eventually a sense of accomplishment. “I remember … after years of struggle, suddenly we could grow other things,” says Brochin, who is also a leader in a local farmers union involved in building a new regional wastewater treatment system.
“Suddenly, the Negev—the desert—was green all year long.”
Israel’s water shortage had reached the level of existential crisis. The country is not only 60% desert, but also home to some of the driest places on earth, has a rapidly growing population and has suffered more frequent droughts in recent years.
Yet, through innovations, conservation and even more perseverance, the Israelis largely overcame their struggles with water shortages. It was for this reason that staff from FarmLife, the AGCO-brand magazine, decided to pay the country a visit, interviewing numerous farmers, water system officials, government leaders and others. We discovered a range of newly developed or improved technologies and practices, some complex, others remarkably simple.
They are solutions we detail and share in the new multi-story, online series, “Water for a Thirsty, and Hungry, World.” It is our hope that the best practices shared here can offer guidance, even inspiration, as we continue to work on ways to make the limited resource of water go further and feed a growing worldwide population.
There are two types of data generated by farm equipment: agronomic and machine. Each type details performance of various operations, yet, as with income and an automobile’s fuel efficiency, most of us are less willing to share one as opposed to the other.
“The actual machine data itself, I don’t have a problem with sharing it,” says Devon Bryant, a farmer and custom harvester from northeast Arkansas, who says he’s a very loyal Massey Ferguson® and Hesston® customer. “I’ll let the manufacturer and dealer see it.” That, he says, will allow his dealership, Cox Implement, to remind him about service and “help the manufacturer … improve their technologies.”
Most farmers, however, feel differently when it comes to their agronomic information. According to results from an American Farm Bureau Federation survey, more than 75% of farmers who responded are concerned that such data could be used by a company or third party for market-sensitive commercial activities.
While Bryant doesn’t have that concern with AGCO—he uses the company’s AgCommand® telemetry and TaskDoc task-management technologies—he can understand why other farmers are more cautious overall. “Let’s say I’m contracted with somebody, and they’re growing a special variety that might be proprietary or it’s one they’re trying to get a patent on. They probably don’t want just anybody to know what their yields are. They could lose the advantage,” that Bryant says comes from years of work and investment.
It’s the Producers’ Data
AGCO has responded to such concerns by offering what the company calls a “two-pipe” approach to dealing with data generated through its equipment. “We treat the agronomic and machine data differently,” says Matt Rushing, vice president, product line for AGCO Advanced Technology Solutions. “The machine data, if the customer chooses, can be shared with AGCO and at the dealership level. That will be used to build better machines, through performance analyses and other measures, and also to improve the performance of the current machine.”
As for agronomic data, says Rushing, AGCO provides “a second pipe to transmit sensitive farm information, such as prescription maps, yield maps, applied data, and planning data.” That information, explains Rushing, “is never stored anywhere besides where the customer chooses to keep the information.
“First and foremost,” he continues, “it’s important to note that AGCO acknowledges that the grower owns all equipment and crop data generated by his or her equipment. It’s the producers’ data to control and share with the partners they choose, which is the main reason why we’re developing an open approach to all of our data-gathering products and services through Fuse Technologies. We believe the producer is the best person to make decisions about their own data, as well as their operations generally.”
If you haven’t noticed, data is a pretty hot topic in the agricultural industry right now. With the rapid growth and adoption of precision farming products such as guidance, telematics, rate and section control, etc. – there has been, in parallel, a massive amount of data generated from global farming operations resulting from the outputs of these products. All of this data has created a wealth of opportunity for growers, agronomists, manufacturing companies, and other invested parties. However, many players in the Ag industry are still working to understand the best ways to utilize this data, so that these emerging opportunities can be fully realized.
Depending on where you sit in the realm of agriculture, there are different types of farm data that can be used in different ways to generate useful information. In the case of AGCO (being a machinery producer), we have identified an area where we believe there is an opportunity for our customers, dealers and AGCO to all become better. Our main interest as a company is utilizing machine data as a service enabler for our customers. Last month, AGCO announced a new service program that it will be rolling out to all AGCO dealers over the next few years. This program is called Fuse® Connected Services, and utilizes data coming from AGCO machines (with the customer’s permission) to provide enhanced services to AGCO customers.
The new service offering is enabled through AGCO’s telematics product, AgCommand®, and is delivered in the form of three service package offerings. Examples of some services that are provided include:
- Proactive condition monitoring (remotely)
- Machine Alerts (based on AGCO recommended thresholds)
- Machine performance and efficiency reviews (Off-season consultation)
- Full management of machine maintenance
- Technology review and seasonal training
Through use of machine data and AGCO’s network of resources, AGCO dealers are able to turn data into useful information that can be used to help customers run machines more efficiently, identify training needs, maximize uptime and more. The idea behind this is simple; managing a farm operation is a lot of work. The logistics and planning aspect of farming alone is enough to keep growers occupied. Having to worry about potential machine breakdowns, maintenance and operator training on top of that can hinder efficiency by taking time away from other value added activities a farmer is responsible for. AGCO dealers can help manage and monitor customer machines so that the customer does not have to worry about his/her machines and operators being ready to execute during crunch time, freeing the farmer to focus on agronomic decisions. Rather than selling customers a radio modem that gives them data points about their machines, AGCO dealers will provide them with services and information that result in actionable insights and recommendations based on the dealer’s expert analysis of the customer’s machine data. This will result in greater uptime, efficiency and profitability for our customers. It will also enhance the service capability of our dealers and even provide AGCO with another means to improve the quality and design of our machines.
The idea of using machine data as a service enabler has already been seen in other industries. Construction companies such as Caterpillar have been doing it for a while now. Telecommunications provider Verizon has a robust program in place for optimizing fleet operations, and has even started something similar in the automotive industry. Verizon’s Hum monitors your vehicle and lets you know if anything goes wrong. Furthermore, it will even recommend repairs and provide you with estimates as to how much the repair may cost.
Consider this—if companies such as Verizon have identified a market opportunity on consumer and commercial vehicles, imagine the opportunity in agriculture. For the most part, a vehicle gets you from point A to point B. Agricultural equipment does much more than that. Growers buy specific machinery to generate a return for their operation. Agricultural equipment is more so a tool than a vehicle. Thus, the value of maximizing the performance of that tool is quite important to owners as it more directly impacts their income and livelihood.
AGCO is taking a big step forward with Fuse Connected Services. We are already piloting this program today in NA, EAME and SA, with dealer availability beginning Q1 of 2016.
For more information on AGCO’s precision farming products, data management policy and Fuse Connected Services, please visit www.agcotechnologies.com.
Ryan Johnson is a Sr. Global Marketing Specialist for AGCO’s Advanced Technology Solutions group, focusing on bringing AGCO’s Fuse precision farming technologies and services to market .
When Bob and Darren Littleton purchased a lightly used Massey Ferguson® 8690 tractor about a year ago, the father-son team came full circle. Darren’s grandfather had once owned a Massey Ferguson dealership and his father was once 100% Massey. Yet, says Darren, “our family kind of drifted away” from the brand due, in large part, to hard times in the 1980s.
That separation, though, didn’t last. “Ever since AGCO acquired the brand … we’d toyed with the idea of going back to Massey Ferguson,” Darren relates. The reunion came to be in April 2014, when the Littletons purchased that MF8690 with only 500 hours on it.
“Massey Ferguson has come a long way,” says Bob. “We just love that [CVT] transmission. Even though about 90% of our fields are in a three-mile radius, we have one farm that is 25 miles away, and that 31-mph road speed is wonderful.”
“The fuel savings have been great too,” adds Darren.“The Dyna-VT™ transmission in combination with the DTM [Dynamic Tractor Management] system [makes] fuel economy unbelievable. We’ve used the tractor on everything from the vertical tillage tool to the grain cart during harvest.”
The MF8690 isn’t the only Massey Ferguson tractor that Darren has an interest in. Over the past few years, he has also been adding a number of vintage models to his tractor collection, most of which revolve around the Massey Ferguson row-crop models from the 1960s and ‘70s.
“I have four different MF1100 models, as well as an MF1150 that is in the paint shop,” he says. “In addition, I have an 1135 that I sometimes use to cut hay, and I have an MF1155 with only 3,300 hours that is really sharp,” he adds. “I still put about 50 hours a year on that one when I’m pulling one of the planters.
“Some people like to fish and some people like to play golf,” he concludes. “For me, it’s taking off to someplace like Illinois or Indiana to attend another farm auction that has a classic Massey Ferguson tractor on the sale bill.”