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Factory Farms Drive Technology Adoption and Sustainability Improvements

By Chris Rhodes

There was a refreshing op-ed piece in the New York Times a few weeks ago.  Typically when city-based media focus their energy on agriculture, the focus is on organic labels, artisanal foods, and craft beers – forgetting about the real work of feeding a growing population of seven billion people.  In the article, author Jayson Lusk talked about how technology is enabling fewer farmers, on less land, with a smaller environmental footprint get the work done to feed more people better food.  He highlighted that in the 1950’s farm technology would have required 180 million acres to produce the same amount of soy that is produced on 80 million US acres today, and that it would require a whopping 308 million acres to produce the corn that is currently grown on 80 million acres.  Without the technology that creates this kind of efficiency, we would not be able to feed the current population—80% of whom now live in cities.

In addition to the focus on productivity, it was nice to see an article that admits that there is no group of people who love the land more, and are better stewards of the land, than farmers.  Jayson points out that the term ‘Factory Farm’ is generally used as a pejorative, but that most farms are actually still owned by families.  He also points out that it is precisely the attention to detail, and the scale of the ‘Factory Farm’ that allows for the technology development and use that drives down the ecological cost of farming while still feeding the world.  It’s these larger farms that are driving the adoption of technology that reduces the use of water and chemicals and that allows for the low- and no-till cropping that has reduced soil erosion 40% since the 1980’s.

Finally, Jayson alludes to the immense complexity that comes with bringing together a bunch of different types of technology.  That complexity remains one of the main stumbling blocks of technology adoption, but not one that can’t be overcome.  A continued focus on driving technology through mobile devices and on connecting technology more openly will ensure that the strides we are making with technology will continue to deliver the productivity and environmental benefits we have been seeing over the last couple of decades.

For more information about how AGCO solutions are helping growers large and small become more efficient, visit www.AGCOcorp.com/Fuse.

Chris Rhodes is the Global Director of Commercial ATS (Advanced Technology Solutions) and Partnerships for Fuse®, AGCO’s next generation approach to precision farming. Chris helps ensure the delivery of Fuse technologies and services to our customers and the advancement of the Fuse open approach through industry partnerships and strategic alliances.

IoTF: The Internet of Things for Farming

By Timothy Chou

AGCO is excited to have guest blogger Dr. Timothy Chou of Stanford University join us on the Fuse Blog

Some of you have heard about the Internet of Things. While many will wonder why a coffee pot needs to talk to a toaster there is even greater potential in using advanced software, machine learning, and cloud computing to transform the planet’s fundamental infrastructure and build precision machines. In this blog we’ll focus on the benefits of using these precision machines to enable precision industries, whether that’s farming, mining or transportation.

 

2015_fused_farm-labels-lowres

 

Precision Machines

So what are the benefits of precision agricultural machines to the farmer, or more generally what are the benefits of precision machines to the businesses that use these machines? We are going to discuss two of these benefits in this blog.

Lower Consumable Costs

Many machines consume materials during operations. This could be fuel in the case of an airplane, ink for a high-speed printer or chemical reagents in a gene sequencer. These consumables often form a large portion of the operational cost structure. As anyone with an inkjet printer knows, the cost of the printer is not near as much as the cost of the toner cartridge you buy every year before tax day. At the enterprise level in the airline industry, the single largest operational cost is fuel – in some cases that’s nearly 30 percent of the total cost of the flight.

In the railroad business New York Air Brake has engineered a product to help operate trains more precisely.  This product, called LEADER, is being used by Norfolk Southern railroad, which operates in 22 eastern states. They attribute a five percent fuel savings to their deployment of LEADER, resulting in not only 10.8 million gallons of diesel fuel saved per year, but also the avoidance of more than 109,500 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Improved Safety

The derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia in 2015 left at least six people dead and created chaos on the heavily traveled Northeast corridor the next morning, cutting off all direct rail service between Philadelphia and New York City and causing many other delays up and down the east coast. But if you can tell the train operator what to do, it’s a short step to just having the computers do it.

In 2016, the first automated train will run from the north of Australia to Perth to deliver iron ore.  Not only will it reduce their costs as they railroad has to spend $300,000 in salary for these operators, but also reducing human error will result in a safer railroad.

While technology is cool, its real usage has been to transform businesses. We’re all familiar with the examples from the consumer space (Google, Uber, eBay), but IoT technology has the potential to do the same for producers and consumers of the machines used in agriculture, healthcare, power, transportation, water and more. For a manufacturer of Things, technology can not only reduce the cost and improve the quality of service, but also deliver new revenue sources. As a consumer of this next generation of Things, you have the ability to use precision machines to deliver higher quality and lower cost food, power and water, and safer and lower cost transportation and healthcare.

For more information about IoT and how it might reshape your business check out the recently released book Precision: Principles, Practices and Solutions for the Internet of Things.

For more information about AGCO’s own Internet of Things for the Farm (IoTF), visit www.AGCOcorp.com/Fuse to learn about our precision farming technologies and services.

National Farm Safety and Health Week

gleaner-harvesting

167 farm workers are injured on a farm and a worker dies in a farm accident EVERY DAY.

38 children are injured on a farm EVERY DAY and a child dies in a farm accident EVERY THREE DAYS.

Farm safety is important to every farmer and operator.  AGCO® works hard to deliver safe equipment and operating instructions on how to use our equipment most effectively.  In recognition of National Farm Safety and Health week AGCO offers the following guidelines to help make sure EVERYONE stays safe during harvest:

  1. Manual and Safety Signs. Read your operator’s manual and safety sign information.  They are packed with information to help you be more productive, increase the life of your equipment and keep you, your family, and workers safe.
  2. Maintenance. Keep all machinery serviced and maintained properly.
  3. Guards. Make sure all guards and shields are in place and secure.
  4. Turn the machine off when not operating. Put equipment in neutral or park, engage parking brake and turn off engine before dismounting. Wait until all mechanisms have stopped moving before attempting to service or unclog a machine.
  5. Working under the machine. Lock hydraulic cylinders or support the head prior to working.
  6. Crop Debris. Make sure all crop debris is removed at frequent intervals to reduce potential fire hazards and possible equipment damage.
  7. Fire Extinguishers. Keep and maintain suitable fire extinguishers on your combine. Make sure they are accessible from the ground.
  8. Children. Create a Safe Play Area for children on the farm that has effective adult supervision and safe play activities for children.  Equipment cabs are not safe play areas.
  9. Bystanders. Keep bystanders and others away from the equipment operation area.
  10. Blind spots. Make sure the area behind the combine is clear before backing.
  11. Riders? Limit riders on equipment! Instructional seats are designed for training or diagnosing machine problems.
  12. Seat belts. Wear seat belts.  ANYONE in the cab should have his or her seatbelt fastened.  Do not lean against the windshield or rely on it to keep you in the cab.
  13. ROPS. Have rollover protective structures fitted on tractors.
  14. Towing. Always use safety chains for towed equipment.
  15. SMV. Always use a slow moving vehicle sign and flashing amber warning lights on public roads.
  16. Road Safety. Never travel left of the center of the road after dark, during poor visibility or when approaching the top of a hill or a curve.
  17. Stay alert. Be physically and mentally fit when operating machinery. Fatigue, stress, medication, alcohol and drugs can detract from safe equipment operation. Take breaks.
  18. Training. Train all operators to safely operate the equipment.

1 2012 Data from CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aginjury/

2 2014 Fact Sheet, National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety

For more information see the following websites:

http://www.asse.org/newsroom/safetytips/farm-safety-tips/

http://www.grainsystems.com/products/safety/res-q-tubes.html

farm-safety-week-agco-harvest-safety-tips

AGCO Equipment: Tried and True

Like his grandfather, Cody Waters buys Massey Ferguson tractors and serves in the military. These days, Waters, who farms both near his current home in Missouri and also where he was raised in Southern Illinois, owns an MF235, an MF275 and an MF285, in addition to two Gleaner F2 combines and an N6 combine.

“They’re standardized. They’re tough and they’re easy to work on,” he says of his AGCO equipment. “They’re nimble, easy to handle and easy on fuel.”

Waters acknowledges that his older equipment does not come without headaches. Breakdowns can be all the more troublesome for someone who works a full-time job, serves in the National Guard, farms in two states and has a young family. Yet his dealership, Lauf Equipment Co. Inc. in Jefferson City, Missouri, has been a port in the storm when repairs are needed, he says, with high praise for the dealer’s ability to respond quickly to his requests.

Cody Waters

Cody Waters

He buys parts and gets advice from Lauf’s knowledgeable staff. “They usually have the part on hand, and they have a good service department,” he says.

Waters, who’s been deployed overseas twice in his 15-year career with the Army National Guard, helped Afghan farmers improve their farming operations when he served as part of an Agribusiness Development Team. While in that war-torn country, he witnessed an ingenuity similar to farmers back home. He also saw much of the durability and versatility in Massey Ferguson tractors while there.

USAID donated 40-plus-HP tractors, including MF240 models, to help the Afghan farmers. According to Waters, they were a good fit for the Afghan operations because of their “small size, simplicity [and] power.” The Massey Ferguson machines also got points for durability and fuel efficiency in a country where fuel is expensive and trained mechanics are almost impossible to find.

See the full story on Cody Waters at http://www.myfarmlife.com/features/veteran-farmers-coming-home/.

Increasing Precision Agriculture Technology Adoption

By Amanda Wemette

At some point during your education or business training, you may have heard of the technology adoption theory called “Diffusion of innovations” by Everett Rogers, which categorizes technology adopters in five stages: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. This theory has been applied to many industries, from consumer gadgets to business solutions. When it comes to precision farming, the adoption of new technologies can often be met with skepticism and a “let’s see where this goes first” attitude. This is understandable, given the rate at which technology changes and the resources required to implement new farming tech, from purchasing to training.

Diffusion of innovations

Rogers Everett – Based on Rogers, E. (1962) Diffusion of innovations. Free Press, London, NY, USA.

Some technologies, such as automatic guidance, are widely used and in the last stages of the adoption curve. The benefits of automatic guidance are well known and accepted. But what about the constant flow of new precision farming technology innovations? What makes growers confident enough to turn from “Laggards” into “Early Adopters” or “Early Majority”?

As this 2013 study notes, “Farmers appreciate in-field demonstrations, free trials, [and] support services related to the use of new technologies, as they promote the perception that the use of a technology is easy.” Communicating the value, or return, on precision farming products and services is also helpful, as is traditional word of mouth marketing. Hearing from one’s peers helps to validate the buying decision. In fact, word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions. This can come in the form of neighbors sharing best practices over dinner, or through reading and viewing customer testimonials. A little assurance can go a long way.

What influences your precision farming technology buying decisions? Tweet @AGCOcorp and let us know.

 

Amanda Wemette is a Sr. Marketing Communications Specialist for AGCO’s Global Advanced Technology Solutions group (Fuse). Connect with Amanda on Twitter @AmandaWemette 

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