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.”
Lanier Orr experienced firsthand the big-bang-like explosion of Forsyth County, Georgia. The area grew from a few thousand people during Orr’s childhood to today’s 175,000, many of whom commute to nearby Atlanta.
Orr, 69, grew up in Forsyth, on the same land where he opened Orr Animal Hospital in 1975. The property also housed the county’s former animal shelter, which Orr and his wife, Annette, ran for more than three decades. Their son Nathan and daughter Aaron are vets in the family practice, along with three other doctors.
“In the 1960s and ’70s, this was a chicken-growing area,” says Orr, who worked with poultry straight out of the University of Georgia veterinary school in 1969 until he opened his practice. His then one-man operation began by primarily serving large-animal patients. With few exceptions, the practice now sees only small animals.
Although he loves veterinary medicine, growing hay and raising Red Angus cattle satisfy his fresh-air inclination. The veterinarian owns and leases more than 400 acres in Forsyth, and adjacent Dawson and Elbert counties.
He rattles off his Massey Ferguson® grouping: “I’ve got a 240, 253, 362, 6280, 5455, 5465 and a 4609.” Roger Harrod at Georgia Deer Farm & Agri-Center in Roopville, Ga., is his dealer.
Orr recalls the time he and a fellow with a comparable-size John Deere were working the same field. “His new tractor kept running hot and he’d have to stop. He wanted to know what I was doing differently.” Simple, replied Orr: “The grass is green. Tractors are supposed to be red.”
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.”
Ron Mellon has had his share of tractor problems. “I needed something smaller, around 100 HP,” he says. He bought a new Case IH and “had nothing but trouble with it.” So he returned it. He also put plenty of money into a certain “green” tractor, whose hydraulics and air conditioning constantly gave him trouble.
That’s when Ron decided to try something new. “I stopped in at Vahrenberg Implements, where I’d bought mowers,” he says. “They were so good to deal with, I bought a new tractor and a manure spreader.” That new tractor matched the Mellons’ wedding barn: a shiny red Massey Ferguson® 4610.
And, it fit the bill for the more compact workhorse he needed. Ron says, “I was leery at first, because it’s a 3-cylinder, but it has plenty of power and doesn’t burn that much fuel. It’s just really economical.”
“I put about nine hours on it today,” says Ron, who uses the tractor for everything from feeding cattle to cutting silage. “Just today, I was moving dirt to make another entrance in from the highway for the new rustic barn we’re putting up.”
“It’s the perfect size,” adds Doug Vahrenberg, of Vahrenberg Implement, in Higginsville, Mo. “The 80 PTO-HP fits lots of cow/calf operations like the Mellons’. And it’s the right price. The 4610 has all the best features for the dollar.”
It’ll definitely be a different kind of year for members of the Decatur, Ill., Heartland FFA. They have the opportunity to work directly with a Fortune 300 ag company, developing and providing stewardship for AGCO’s plot of land at the nearby Farm Progress Show (FPS) this August.
After a successful relationship with the Gilbert, Iowa, FFA chapter in 2014, AGCO is partnering with Heartland to prepare its next exhibition site. The difference is “We’re bringing them in earlier this year,” says Phil Jones, segment strategy manager for AGCO. “They’ve already been involved in soil testing and stewardship, working cooperatively with local farmer David Brix.”
Brix’s farm is contiguous with the FPS property, and is used for demonstrating equipment during the show.
While last year was production-focused, this time the expanded time frame will allow emphasis on science as well. Steve Carlson, ag science instructor at Heartland Technical Academy and FFA adviser for 16 years, says the AGCO program “allows the students to understand the agronomy of agriculture and how those scientific principles [work].”
For instance, says Carlson, students “AGCO wants there to be at least three different crops planted at the site. So, we will take the samples and prepare them for shipment to a local soil-testing laboratory. I’ll share the results with my FFA students and have them make suggestions or recommendations for fertilizer applications for the specific sites where individual crops will grow.”
The project benefits both FFA and AGCO. Students learn from practical experience and expand their understanding of the ag industry. AGCO gets the chance to connect directly with future agriculturalists.
“It’s very hands-on,” says Jones. “They get the practical side but also a window into the world as to how a company like AGCO works.
See for yourself the results of this collaboration between FFA and AGCO this week! Visit the 2015 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, IL, September 1-3.