Mark Watne, along with his family, produces a variety of crops on 6,000 acres near Velva, N.D. The land is on the edge of the Bakken Shale oil reserves, where hydraulic fracturing has made the state the second largest oil producer after Texas and provided a shot in the arm to the North Dakota economy.
But the news hasn’t all been sunny for the region, where agricultural commodities have historically dominated transportation networks. Watne, who grows wheat, corn, soybeans, canola, barley and sunflowers, and owns two AGCO Gleaner® combines, believes in the booming grain harvests of 2013, producers were often relegated to a second priority when it came to rail transport.
“During the harvest, we could not deliver product to the elevators because they were all full,” he explains. “The rail lines weren’t picking it up.”
Overall, agricultural commodities dominate rail lines in many parts of the U.S. Agricultural traffic also relies heavily on major lines to the Mississippi River, Chicago, Kansas City and Houston.
That’s a good thing as long as rail can handle the capacity. The United Soybean Board estimates that shipping soybeans via rail, as opposed to by truck, saves an average of 20 to 30 cents per bushel. But what happens when rail can’t handle the traffic? That’s a growing concern, but one rail officials say is being addressed.
That’s critical, says Watne, who believes a viable transportation network is critical for the nation’s producers. He says the reason North American farmers still hold an advantage for exports in the Americas is because of their rail and highway systems. “Brazil may have the crops, but they don’t have this kind of infrastructure,” he explains.
“But that won’t last forever. We’re eventually going to see greater competition from countries who are developing their agricultural economies and infrastructure.”
FarmLife, the AGCO-brand magazine, has compiled tips on farm machinery maintenance from the experts—AGCO customers, as well as dealership and corporate personnel. Two installments in the series—baler and tractor maintenance—are now available online at myFarmLife.com/maintenance.
Advice includes information on lubricants, filters, tire inflation, belts, chains, and cooling systems. Tips on tractor and baler operation, as well as keeping records on maintenance, are also included.
Additionally, information about the AGCO preventive maintenance program—PM 360—is featured in the series, as are the benefits of using Genuine AGCO Parts and AGCO service departments. Says AGCO customer Jesse Wilmot of Maysville, Oklahoma: “We put about 3,000 bales through each of [his Hesston] 2190 machines on an annual basis and about 5,000 bales through the 3 X 3 models. So, they get fairly heavy use.”
Wilmot explains that during the haying season, he and his partner typically cut around 250 acres per day, with two Hesston by Massey Ferguson WR9770 windrowers, and bale that same amount a day or two later. To keep them running in such a time-sensitive operation, Wilmot explains, “We also get all our parts, including the twine, from Livingston Machinery so the equipment always performs the way it was designed to.”
Joe Payne of Portland, TN, who runs some 10 AGCO-made tractors, says he still performs most of the fluid and filter changes himself. However, because of the technology built into today’s machines, he generally calls Whayne Supply, his dealer in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, for any necessary repairs or service.
“Since the dealership is nearly 70 miles from my farm, I also have them come to me with their service truck, rather than me try to get the tractor to them or have them pick it up,” he adds. “They have nearly everything they need on the service truck to make a repair in the field, so it saves time for both of us.”
Coming in early 2016: A new installment on combine maintenance.
When the Hesston High football team storms the home field on Friday nights, a swather towers on the sidelines in all its big, red and intimidating glory. The swather mascot first came into play in 1970, says Clint Stoppel, athletic director at the Kansas school. School officials wanted to pay tribute to the AGCO Corporation plant (previously known as Hesston Manufacturing) and the crucial role the manufacturer played then and now in the town’s economy.
Just as a swather makes short work of cutting grain or hay, so too does the Swather football team when it comes to the opposition, earning top league honors for five years running. Before home games, an employee of AGCO cranks up the team mascot and tools it just up the road to the school, ginning up team spirit in the process. A caricature of the real-deal swather shows up on pep rally signs, sporting a frightening grin and squinty eyes designed to make competitors quake.
The Swather mascot does its job and “definitely draws attention,” says Zack Ledford, a junior offensive and defensive lineman. “It kind of replicates that ‘mean machine’ look,” agrees Zack’s dad, Donnie Ledford, who is an AGCO employee along with his wife, Andrea. The manufacturing plant, he says, “brings a lot of jobs to town.”
Swather team members are among that number. “I can think of five or six kids from the past 10 years that are working at AGCO now,” Stoppel says of former students.
In turn, the town of 3,700 supports the Swathers. “You can pretty much shut down the town on Friday nights,” says Stoppel.
By Ben Craker
A key aspect of the Fuse strategy is to seek out new and innovative technologies to integrate into machines. AGCO understands how quickly new technologies change and develop. This means no one company will be able to provide all the different solutions farmers will want on their own. Partnering allows AGCO to focus on developing core machines and on technologies that have become integral to the machine. A good example of this is the recent announcement for the new VarioGuide and Auto-Guide systems. We have taken the approach that no one will be better at steering a machine built by AGCO than AGCO. However, we are not experts in the development of GNSS receivers, so we have partners like NovAtel, Topcon, and Trimble to provide industry leading receivers with their own unique features that connect into the AGCO machines and technology products.
Following the Fuse open partnering strategy, earlier this month a team from AGCO, including Chris Rhodes and Ben Craker from Advanced Technology Solutions and Darren Goebel from Global Crop Care, traveled to Silicon Valley to meet with a variety of tech startups that are focused on agriculture. The Royse Law Firm has created an incubator for these new companies to help them take their innovative ideas to market. Silicon Valley is perhaps the global epicenter for innovation but often the creative people, who have developed a new product or service, don’t have the funding or industry experience to grow their business beyond a fairly small scale. This is where Roger Royce and his “incubator” come in. The AgTech Innovation Network connects startup businesses with potential investors or partners like AGCO to help companies get past the new-idea phase and into the market.
As AGCO looks to the horizon and the next technologies that will change the way farms operate, startups in Silicon Valley will likely play a big role. Through participation with the groups like the AgTech Innovation Network and Farm2050, AGCO will learn about these emerging technologies first hand and integrate them into products promptly to help growers become more productive, efficient and sustainable. At last week’s meeting AGCO made connections with companies in areas from fleet and employee management, to food freshness monitoring and traceability, to enhanced wireless communications in remote areas and localized weather information.
While not every product or service fits exactly into the current AGCO portfolio, many of them could be adapted to provide new and exciting tools for growers with AGCO equipment. For instance, some of the sensor technology developed for a robotic fruit harvester may have other uses in application equipment. This is part of the purpose of the incubator, to expose the products to different people who may have slightly different viewpoints on what they could be best used for, or what markets would really see a demand for the technology. It was a very exciting meeting with a lot of companies for the AGCO partnering team to follow up with on future possibilities.
Ben Craker is a Manager for AGCO’s Advanced Technology Solutions group, focusing on Global Partnerships and Standards for Fuse Technologies. Connect with Ben on Twitter @crakerb.
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!