Late this past fall we asked our Facebook Followers to submit some #Harvest16 pictures. We had submissions from all over the U.S. We figured with all the wintery gloom now was a good time to put them all together for you. Thanks to all who submitted!
As you probably are already well aware, CNH Global revealed their new autonomous tractor concept. They have been showcasing both the cabless Case IH version as well as a cabbed New Holland model. These tractors have been paraded around the country to some of the biggest farm shows around, but are these tractors really a look at our immediate future? Well here is my take.
If you are like me the announcement of the Robo-Tractor, as I like to call it, made you cringe. I just can not imagine a world where the tractors did the work with no operator. It seems to go against our agricultural legacy. However, we all should know by now that new and improved technologies emerge every day and this Robo-Tractor wasn’t exactly a huge surprise to me.
Personally, I don’t see this Robo-Tractor coming to a farm near you anytime soon. For one, this big reveal was not a new model or product announcement, it wasn’t meant to show you what will be on every dealer lot next year, this is only to show you what they are working on and what the future of farm machinery COULD look like. These autonomous tractors as well as their new slogan are nothing more than a marketing gimmick to try to boost sales for CNH.
The public’s opinion on these machines is less than optimistic based on everyone I’ve talked to and numerous articles written about it. Most farmers just aren’t ready for the day where they spend less time out of the tractor and more time in an office. Many farmers have pointed out the obvious pitfalls of such a machine, such as it not detecting a wet spot that a human operator may have been able to avoid or problems with the implements hooked behind the tractor, it does you no good if you have to drive out to the field 8 times to fix or adjust a piece of equipment. Roadability is a big concern, in the video released by CNH they mentioned it being able to travel to the field on its own on private roads and paths. That doesn’t always work real well in some parts of the country where you are more often than not moving machinery on public roadways. There is a real concern of price. We can only speculate now, but everyone is guessing these tractors will be very, very, very expensive, higher than tractors are already.
I believe the version of the Case IH tractor they revealed will be a flop if ever released in that form. It isn’t versatile enough to be of much use to the average farm. The New Holland version they are showing however, could have some success as it still has a cab as well as a user friendly operating station like our current tractors and is meant to be easily used either driverless or with an operator. The only way I see very many of either version being sold is if big corporations buy them in an effort to reduce labor. I’m talking the farms that the owner or share holder owners don’t make any real day to day decisions but are there to manage the finances and try to collect a healthy profit for themselves. These are people that have likely never farmed or even stepped foot on the place they own.
Quite frankly, I don’t like this thing and I share the same views and opinions of many others. I believe it will cost to much, not necessarily make life or work any easier, and the cost of repairs will be horrendous. I also see almost zero benefit to the average farmer. We already have GPS guidance systems and auto-steer to help us out, what will this thing do that we can’t already do? If I own a piece of equipment I prefer a human to accompany said equipment in case there are any issues. I don’t want to be tied to my computer or smart phone any more than I already am. If I send an employee out to the field with a tractor to do some tillage I know that he/she will only call me if there is a question or issue, and other than that I know the machine is in good hands. If I send a Robo-Tractor to the field to do some tillage I have to periodically check on it with my computer, tablet, or phone thus limiting the amount of work I can get done myself. I don’t like the idea that this computerized abomination can possibly put people out of a job. I am frustrated with the fact that CNH is trying to come across as leaders of unmarked territory, when in fact there are companies already producing autonomous tractors as well as converting existing tractors to be fully autonomous. I’ll give them credit on that paint scheme though.
Do I believe the autonomous tractor will eventually make its way into every day farm life? Of course I do, but I think we are still a ways off from that happening. I think the agriculture economy will have to improve drastically before many people even consider purchasing such a machine. I also believe that the technology still has growing to do before that day arrives.
If you grew up on a farm or around a farm or in a rural area you likely have fond memories of farming several thousand acres on the floors of your bedroom, kitchen, living room, hall ways, and even some custom work for a neighbor over in the bathroom. You likely had some of the newest equipment of your favorite color. There were probably times you had to beg your sister for some pasture space in her room for your newest heifers.
At times I see kids tearing across the floor combining corn or baling hay and I’d give nearly anything to be able to go back to those days when a trip with Mom or Dad to the local farm store or implement dealer meant a chance to hopefully bring home another piece of equipment for MY farm. My birthday, Christmas, and sometimes Easter usually meant I’d get at least one new addition for the farm.
Carpet farming taught me as well as other kids some very important lessons over the years. A large part of that state of the art machinery I had was purchased with my own money and I learned early the importance of saving for what I wanted and budgeting expenses accordingly. I also learned what it felt like to beg the banker (Mom and Dad) to spot me the money that I PROMISED to pay back (I wonder how many of those promises I actually made good on). I still remember the first time I learned about sales tax. I was at the Clay County Fair and though my farm was primarily green, a toy booth had a New Holland tractor and implement, I think a ripper, and for some reason I thought I needed that for an upgrade. I happily went to the check out counter and bought my newest equipment, after walking back to where I was meeting my parents I realized the change I received wasn’t correct, or so I thought. I failed to realize we had to pay sales tax, boy that was a shock.
I’m sure you all have similar memories and lessons learned from those days. We also shouldn’t forget how much fun a kid has when his/her parents, grandparents, or any adult really, gets down on the floor and plays along. Kiddos love that, especially if you let them be farm manager. You may be amazed at how much fun your having yourself, that is until you try to get up and those old knees are stiffened up.
To all my Carpet Farmers out there; Farm ON!
As you probably already know this week (March 13-19) is National Ag Week. Today I’ve noticed a number of posts on social media thanking farmers. This of course is great, but I want to make sure everyone remembers that National Ag Week isn’t just to show appreciation to farmers but all those involved in agriculture.
What many don’t realize is that it takes a great number of people to keep up with the world’s demand for the products we produce. Team work is truly needed for all of us to succeed in this rapidly changing industry, if one wheel falls off the whole car comes to a halt. Farmers and ranchers rely on everyone from truck drivers to veterinarians, agronomists to mechanics, sales people to hired help, advisors of all variety and most of all the farm/ranch families. This week is truly for all of us involved in agriculture.
Agriculture is the nation’s largest employer of over 23 million people, and in 2010 the U.S. exported more than $115 billion worth of agricultural products. These figures go to show how much impact each and every one us make to not only the nation, but to everyone around world. Give yourselves a huge pat on the back!
I recently read a list about some little known facts about John Deere. This had me thinking about a few facts about Farmall tractors. I couldn’t come up with much in the way of a list or anything so I did some research and came up with my own 10 facts about our beloved Farmall’s.
1. From 1924-1963 Farmalls were the largest selling row crop tractors.
2. Of all the Farmall models the Farmall Cub remained in production the longest, from 1947-1979.
3. The Farmall H & Super H is the number one selling row crop tractor of all time.
4. Farmall was originally a model name used by International Harvester when they entered the “All-Purpose” Tractor market. It was so successful that for years they used Farmall as a brand for their new line of tractors.
5. Farmalls were originally a bluish-grey color. It wasn’t until 1936 that the bright Farmall Red came to be. The reason behind this paint scheme was mostly due to marketing. Competitors were beginning to use bright colors to draw the eye of potential customers as well as to be easily identified from afar.
6. IH hired designer, Raymond Loewy, to give the new Letter Series tractors a “streamlined appearance”.
7. Many of the new Farmall 60 series tractors were recalled due to reports of mechanical breakdowns. These breakdowns were largely caused by the new, more powerful 6 cylinder engines mated to basically un-changed model M components. Obviously, competitors pounced upon this recall as an opportunity to draw customers away from the Farmall models.
8. The Fast Hitch was introduced by IH to compete with the 3 point hitch developed by Ferguson and used on Ford-Ferguson tractors. The Fast Hitch became an option on the Farmall Super C, 100, 200, 300, 400 tractors as well as some later models but was later abandoned when the 3-point became adopted by all manufacturers.
9. The Farmall Works plant first opened in Rock Island, Illinois in 1926 and was closed in 1985
10. IH officially dropped the Farmall name in 1973, however some tractors produced in 1974 and 1975 still sported the Farmall badge as the factories used up the rest of their supply of the name plates. Case IH has recently resurrected the Farmall name in its line of compact tractors.
Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.
This one phrase consisting of only 12 words have stuck with me long after my FFA Career ended. As a Sophmore in high school I decided to join FFA. My only regret is not joining as a Freshman. I learned very valuable lessons in FFA throughout those 3 years that are beyond the contents of a text book. Like all good high school agriculture programs, we learned about soil science, plant health, animal science, meat and milk production, and much more. Those lessons are important for aspiring farmers and those pursuing careers in agriculture but that just barely scratches the surface of FFA. FFA taught us all about life skills that I will forever carry with me including public speaking and giving presentations, problem solving, research skills, interview skills, leadership, organization, teamwork, and servitude.
My local FFA Chapter, Okoboji FFA, does a great job of giving back to the community. The community supports the chapter throughout the year by partaking in various fundraising events including fruit sales, an antique tractor ride, donations for an annual auction, the chapter pumpkin patch, and more. Okoboji FFA then uses those funds to purchase equipment or materials for the shop, and send students to district, state, and national events. Every year the chapter strives to give back to the community by donating fruit to the elderly, trash pickup on a stretch of Highway 71, present a series of Farm Safety demonstrations to elementary students, educate non-farming folks about agriculture, and many more projects and events.
FFA is more than just showing livestock at the local fair and working on tractors. I encourage you to support your local FFA Chapter. We all need to be thinking of the future of agriculture, especially when so many of our practices seem to be under attack by the mis-informed. I urge you all to go out to the next event you see that your local chapter is hosting. If you can and wish to, donate to either your local chapter, or to the National FFA Organization. The next time you see students sporting the National Blue and Corn Gold remember that FFA is much bigger than livestock and corduroy.
I was recently scrolling through the pictures of those who I follow on Instagram (Follow us at @profoundag1) when one particular photo and caption caught my attention advertising a small drone for sale. The caption read that it was an AgriCopterPro made in Tennessee by Agriimage. The description goes on to read that it is ideal for crop scouting and comes with some add ons for better performance. Brand new the list price hovers around $4,000 dollars but this particular unit was used, and was being offered at only $3,000. Something about a drone made especially for crop scouting seems a bit futuristic for me. I remember growing up hearing of one day having combines and tractors that will levitate to reduce compaction, as well as hover craft ATV’s but I never took them seriously. I’m sure someone probably told me that drones would eventually be common on the farm but I either tuned it out or filed it away with the other mythical sounding things, like remote operated tractors.
I made a note to look up the company that builds these gizmos, and kept scrolling through my Instagram when I saw another post that caught my attention. It was a video of a young man, I’d guess high school age, that had just got his John Deere B running for the first time since performing his very first engine overhaul with the help of his father. This made me think of all the technological advancements made in agriculture in such a short time.
Today we have tractors equipped with satellite transmitters and GPS that can literally drive themselves through a field with pinpoint accuracy. Our sprayers can turn off each nozzle one by one to prevent over application of chemicals, not only saving money but helping to keep some of the more aggressive environmentalist off our backs. The combines almost all have a fancy monitor in them that shows field yield and immediate yield, moisture level, fuel usage per hour, and much more. A few years ago I rode in, a then brand new, Case IH combine that belonged to a neighbor. As I was with him I heard a bunch of beeping and chirping coming from this computer screen in the cab. I asked him what was going on and he told me it was just an alert to let him know the tank was getting full. He also chuckled and told me a story have having his grandson with him a few days prior to my visit. His grandson thought the chirping was coming from a cell phone and after about an hour of riding in the combine the little boy instructed his grandfather to “either answer your phone or turn the stupid thing off.”
My father grew up on a farm here in Iowa and he tells me all the time the way things have changed over the years. He says that if someone had told him that someday we would be farming with tractors that produced 500+ hp he would have laughed at them. However, he is not the only one with such feelings. He grew up using a variety of equipment and implement brands that are no longer even in existence such as Oliver, Minneapolis Moline, Allis Chalmers, and many more. He also used implements that are rarely ever used any more such as; corn pickers and shellers and mounted cultivators. If I go back another generation to my grandfather, who still works hard every day even though he is nearing his 85th birthday, he could tell you of even more changes. He remembers being a young boy and his father bringing home a brand new John Deere A. The A was a game changer on the family farm and shortly there after came a B as well as a host of other equipment. He remembers thinking they had the best there would ever be while running these 2-popper tractors. He laughs to think that his current lawn mower has a higher hp rating than that John Deere B.
I recently got done doing a partial restoration to an old John Deere 999 corn planter that my grandfather had given me around 7-8 years ago. It has found a home as a yard ornament out front by the road for all to see. A buddy of mine stopped over one day shortly after I put it out in the yard and being a young farmer himself he went over to check it out. “Pretty amazing isn’t it”, he said. I had no clue what he was talking about and just shot him a funny glance. He explained he was talking about the planter and how odd it seemed. Originally it was designed to be pulled by horses and later my great grandfather had converted it to be pulled by a tractor. My friend was in awe. He stated that it would take nearly a full day to plant 10 acres with a couple horses and this contraption and I suspect he could be right.
If you were to talk to many of these retired farmers they would tell you that the price of modern equipment (even old used equipment), as well as inputs, and seed is ridiculous, but I bet if you tell them about these drones that are offered for multiple uses from crop scouting to chemical application they would have a tough time believing you. I would also wager when you told them a simple crop scouting drone was $4,000 dollars they would tell you how they bought a brand new Farmall 350 for around $3,000.
What I find very interesting is even with all these technological advances in agriculture much of the old technology is still used every day. For example, my father owns a 1965 Famall 656 equipped with a Westendorf loader. It is nearly 50 years old and still has a use on the farm. My uncle has a couple of 1960’s John Deere 3020’s that quite literally get used every day. There are a ton of tractors and even some implements still playing a vital role on even the biggest farming operations across the country that are 40-60 years old or more. Some things just don’t need changing.
From the days of the first Deere & Co. plow to now it is amazing that with each innovation farmers have always thought “we have the best that there will ever be,” and yet we should know by now that what the future holds can potentially change how we do things forever. I may have thought that a drone used to scout crops with a such a high price tag seemed crazy, but I realize it is here to stay for the long term and may very well find its way into everyday life of the American crop producer. I still have my doubts about the magical levitating combines though.