Posts Tagged ‘Agriculture’
In recent posts, we shared our vision for the AGCO Future Farm concept, and in May we celebrated the official opening of our first Future Farm in Lusaka, Zambia. Today, we’d like to introduce one of the team members making this project successful: Farm Manager Richard Chapple.
Originally from the UK, Richard came to Zambia in November 2008 to visit family, but he was offered a job running a flight charter company and stayed. With a background as an agricultural contractor in the UK and experience sub-contracting combines in Zambia on behalf of a company called African Harvesters, he was a natural fit for AGCO and joined the Future Farm team in 2012.
Although every day on the farm is different, a typical morning for Richard starts at 7:30 a.m., when he has a meeting with his team of 32 workers. They allocate jobs based on what is planned for the day, from spraying programs to planting a variety of crops around the farm.
The Zambia Future Farm includes a state-of-the art facility designed to accommodate both small-scale and large commercial farmers, as well as education and training programs to provide hands-on experience with technology and utilize Africa’s agricultural resources more effectively. Chapple says this is reassuring to local farmers. “No matter what tractor you’re driving, it’s all about the support you’re receiving.”
Chapple has been involved with the Future Farm project since its inception in 2012, and he said the team experienced a great sense of achievement at the official launch on May 27. “In a small space of time, we’ve done a huge amount of work,” he said. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces came together.”
What does Chapple find most rewarding about his job? “For me, it’s development, and not just of the farm itself,” he said. “When we took over the farm, we also took over the workforce that was here already. It’s the personal development of the workforce on the farm, the capacity building, and getting better relationships. I’ve learned a fair bit, as well.”
Zambia has huge potential in terms of resources to be tapped, and Chapple appreciates the opportunity to play a role the development of agriculture in the country. “I’m very excited and happy to be a part of it.”
Still in its early stages in North America, the harvesting and processing industry for cellulosic ethanol now has something to show for years of research and planning in the form of three new cellulosic ethanol plants.
Bill Levy, chief executive officer of PacificAg, believes the North American biomass industry is poised for growth. “Over the next decade or so, it will become a major market,” he says.
Two of the three new cellulosic plants are in Iowa—one operated by DuPont in Nevada; the other in Emmetsburg is run by South Dakota-based ethanol producer POET/DSM—and both process corn stover. The other facility—located in Hugoton, Kan., and run by Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass—uses some wheat straw in addition to corn and milo stover, all of which is supplied exclusively by PacificAg.
For every 180 bushels of grain, the average producer will have about 4.3 tons of stover. To maintain sufficient organic matter in the soil and to prevent erosion, the USDA advises leaving an average of 2.3 tons per acre on the ground. Studies have shown that leaving too much residue can increase the likelihood of disease the following spring, make planting more difficult and use up nitrogen.
“The biggest benefit we bring growers is an alternative method for managing high residue,” says Denny Penland, business development manager for DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol. “And it also produces a platform for producing next year’s crop of corn.”
In Canada, there are currently no biomass plants online or in the works, but Charles Lalonde, a project manager with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, says he expects that’s going to change in the next few years. He says there will soon be demand for corn stover and wheat straw inside Canadian borders.
“With corn stover, we’re trying to develop a market for it in bioprocessing,” Lalonde explains. He anticipates that facility will focus on using cellulosic material to produce sugars for use in various biochemical productions.
U.S. plants making ethanol from grains, mainly corn, are currently at capacity, producing 12 billion to 13 billion gallons annually. “Right now, the industry is waiting for the cellulosic side of these projects to get up and running,” Levy says. By comparison, it’s estimated that the new plants will be able to produce around 75 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year.
Plans for seven new cellulosic ethanol plants have been announced by the USDA, three of which will use agricultural waste, while the others will use resources like wood chips, wood waste and municipal solid waste.
And while the bulk of the U.S. market now is corn stover, Glenn Farris, AGCO’s manager of segment strategy for biomass/industrials, expects a market for dedicated energy crops to emerge, such as Miscanthus and switchgrass.
Farris says he believes that by 2030 more producers will see 300 bushels of corn per acre. That means 8 to 10 tons of stover per acre on the ground within the next 15 years.
Says Levy, “I think we’re going to see a revolution in the biomass market in the years to come. As the world turns to renewable energy, agriculture is going to be a direct benefactor.”
MF7615 Series surpasses New Zealand Dairy farmer and contractor’s expectations for hedge mulching business.
Contractor and dairy farmer Robert Klaus has great partnerships.
The first is with his wife Sharon who loves her cows and runs the dairy farm. The second is with Massey Ferguson, and their MF7615 tractor, the backbone of Robert’s hedge-cutting business.
Robert and Sharon bought their first dairy farm near Matamata. They’d been share milking for seven years, working up to managing a 500-cow herd. Now they have their own property where they milk 150 cows on 52 effective hectares.
It’s a small farm and dairy payouts are looking questionable for this coming season, so it is good Robert has his contracting sideline. Besides he loves machinery.
“I’d been working for a mate who owns a contracting business for the last eight years and I wanted to do something myself. Sharon enjoys milking, and I could see a gap in the market mulching barberry hedges.”
Robert looked at second-hand cutters but couldn’t find anything good enough so he had the local engineers design and build one for him. It’s like a giant mower tilted on its side with two big blades, and a shroud around it. It mulches the hedges and leaves everything tidy.
Robert got the Massey Ferguson 7615 in December from Matamata tractors.
“I needed a six-cylinder machine with a long wheel base because the hedge-cutter is mid-mounted. I got the Dyna-VT variable transmission as it goes down to 0.3 kph. I use it in foot mode. I just take my foot off and it stops. I hardly ever use the brake or clutch. It’s like driving a big forklift.”
The hedge cutter runs off the tractor’s hydraulics and all the operations for the rams on the cutter are controlled from the factory joystick in the cab.
“I saved a lot of money, as I didn’t have to fit an after-market joystick,” Robert says.
The joystick also has a forward/reverse button so he doesn’t have to move his hand during operations. He can constantly look at where he’s going and what the mulcher is doing.
The cutter is mounted on the left side of the tractor, and Robert says it is “a piece of cake getting in and out the right door. In some other brands it was just about impossible to get out.”
There are dual wheels on the cutter side to help balance the weight of the machine.
“I’ve got a bigger footprint on the left side, which makes it more stable. Otherwise, if I hit a hole the cutter would drop when I’m trying to keep the hedge straight.”
He doesn’t fit duals on the right side, as it would make the tractor too wide to get through gateways.
The MF 7615 produces 150hp from a Tier 4a AGCO Power SCR engine, which uses AdBlue to minimise toxic emissions.
“It’s no problem. I fill AdBlue every third tank of diesel. It’s got a gauge telling me when its low, and I always keep a bit on hand.”
He says anyone can jump in and drive the tractor. “It’s what I like about them. “They’ve got all the technology but it’s user-friendly. Everything is simply laid out.”
The cab also meets with his approval.
“It’s awesome – comfortable and really quiet. That stood out when I first drove it. People ring me and ask what I’m doing because they can’t even hear the hedge-cutter working.”
Robert says the serviceability is also good. “You don’t have to pop the bonnet to check the oil. And if you need to blow out the radiator, it’s right there and easy to get at.”
The MF 7615 is available in three different specifications: Essential, Efficient and Exclusive. Robert got the Efficient.
He’s had great service from Matamata Tractors.
“When we were building the hedge-cutter they helped the engineer to shift the diesel, hydraulic and AdBlue tanks, and nothing was ever a problem.”
This isn’t Robert and Sharon’s first dealing with Massey Ferguson tractors. They also run a MF5460.
They’ve had the MF 5460 for four years. It’s 120hp with a Dyna-4 transmission.
“I always liked Fergies and Matamata Tractors did a good deal I couldn’t pass up. I just like the tractor. It’s got everything we need but is still basic to operate,” Robert says.
“It’s really reliable and nothing has gone wrong with it. On the big farm it pulled the silage wagon. Now it has an auger bucket for feeding out on a pad. It also does the mowing and all the farm work.
He says both the Fergies are very quiet tractors, with everything well laid out, at your fingertips.
Imagine taking a brand-new tractor, worth tens of thousands of dollars, and purposefully trying to break it. That’s what the folks at the AGCO manufacturing facility in Jackson, Minn., do just about every workday.
It all happens at Jackson’s Quality Gate Five. The $1.97 million-facility can hold and check two tractors at once, one on the “jounce” and PTO testing station, and the other on a chassis dynamometer.
For the jounce test, a tractor’s rear wheels or tracks are positioned on pads that rock back and forth. This test is used to verify that there are no loose fittings, hoses or electrical connections. Afterward, the tractor is physically inspected to make sure nothing came loose as a result of the shaking, which is so violent no one is allowed to be in the cab.
While still at the first station, the PTO is tested at various speed and load levels, and its output measured across the rpm range. Each tractor is then moved to the second station and the chassis dynamometer. Here, a multi-roller bed is used to verify different functions like the steering, brake, transmission shift quality, DEF functionality and limited powertrain performance.
Six winches hold the tractors in place as they speed up to 33 mph and rev to as high as 400 HP. The dynamometer reads the engine rpm, what gear it’s in and how well it shifts, and when it shifts, how low the rpm goes.
“What we learn,” says Eric Fisher, the plant’s director of operations, “also affects what we do upstream.”
Overall, according to Fisher, the work in Gate Five takes about two hours, and includes 250-plus tests and the analysis of more than 150,000 data points. In just the first month of operation, the inspections, he says, “yielded a 25% reduction in defects, and that’s just a start.”
“Like its customers, AGCO doesn’t embrace technology for its own sake,” says Bob Crain, AGCO Senior Vice President and General Manager, Americas. “There must be a return on investment.”
The expansion and upgrades at the Jackson plant, as well as those throughout the company’s global facilities, offer just that, says Crain, “in the company’s relentless pursuit of its stated goal—to be No. 1 in customer-perceived quality.”
In its heyday a century ago, scores of horses were used to do dozens of jobs at Biltmore. Today, one utility tractor—with 99 HP—performs multiple jobs at one of the country’s most beautiful agricultural operations.
Biltmore has long been a Massey Ferguson® customer. Their small fleet includes Massey Ferguson tractors dating back 35 years. The nearly new MF4610 is the most recent jack of all trades making life easier in a diversified operation.
“Masseys are easy to operate and affordable to work on. They do the job,” says Kevin Payne, Biltmore’s farm manager. “The 1979 MF1100 is as strong as when it was new.” And he should know. Payne has worked at Biltmore since the year that MF1100 was purchased.
Payne loves the smooth but powerful shuttle transmission on the MF4610. At Biltmore, Payne and crew can be hauling cattle feed in the morning, cutting thick sudangrass by afternoon and moving rolling chicken coops by evening.
“The shuttle transmission is really nice when you are picking up feed pallets or baling, then loading hay,” says Payne. “It is a whole lot quicker doing anything where you are moving from forward to reverse frequently.”
The MF4610 does it all with a 3-cylinder engine that generates torque as well or better than comparable 4-cylinder engines. “I use this tractor to disk ground, and it moved through the field like the disc wasn’t even back there.”