SD farmer has eye-opening Agritechnica experience

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by Connie Sieh Groop Special to the Farm Forum

An expo featuring the latest in ag technology highlighted the vacation of a Stratford farmer who spent two days at Agritechnica, one of the world’s largest farm shows held in Hanover, Germany, in November.

“It was great to experience this huge show,” said Dusty Schley. He was intrigued by the offerings at the event as he is nerdy about ag technology. Schley was one of the nearly 450,000 visitors to the show which featured 2,803 exhibitors. Officials said that more than 100,000 of the visitors came from outside Germany.

“Realistically, the European operations are vastly different from planting corn and beans in the Midwest,” Schley said. “There was not a lot of the stuff I saw that I related to our operations. There were planters for carrots and a huge yellow spider-type machine for harvesting sugar beets. Those high-value crops make use of drip-tape subsurface irrigation. That was the first drip-tape installer I’ve seen.”

An international experience through South Dakota Ag and Rural Leadership sparked Schley’s interest in technology on the world scene.

Schley thought he was most likely to use some information from the company called Solvi. The company takes images from drones and pulls useful information from the photos. The Swedish company launched in the spring of 2017 with two employees: a programmer and an accountant. Schley was impressed that the company was small and flexible. Their goal is to simplify agriculture.

Schley said he always wanted to see a Lamborghini tractor. Being able to sit in one of the luxurious machines with his son Clay was an unexpected thrill.

“The show was a lot different from walking around DakotaFest,” Schley said. “Almost everyone was in suits. I was dressed in jeans and my seed corn cap, and I felt underdressed.”

Schley said that there were many engineers at the show, some showing ideas and looking to network with bigger companies that could take their idea and develop it for production. It was exciting to see young startup guys taking on projects that the big companies don’t mess with. Schley found the small guys were more willing to listen to him, and he enjoyed talking with the engineers rather than the salesmen.

Tiny workers

Increased use of robots is on the horizon. Modern tractors may eventually work in conjunction with little robots that will plant one row at a time and address any weed issues. A couple of companies offered a look at those systems.

AGCO/Fendt received the silver award at the show for their MARS project. MARS stands for Mobile Agricultural Robot Swarms. The little robots use GPS to talk to each other. As a team, they collaborate in a completely autonomous and efficient way and with high precision. They create less compaction in fields using smaller components, with less weight and expense. Schley said this company had the most polished presentation.

“This was one of my favorite things,” Schley said. “It is completely different from anything we do now. The farmer only needs to do the seed planning (via an app) and manage the transport logistics of the robot fleet.”

Famers would love to have robots take over some of the monotonous jobs that a robot can do, like moving pallets or pushing up feed in bunks.

“In our operation, we bought auto steer for our tractor because it is a convenience,” Schley said. “It took away one of the most monotonous jobs, driving a tractor in a straight line. Now we can focus more on the important jobs to make sure the planter or sprayer is working properly.”

Hospitality

Motel rooms in Hanover during the show are at a true premium. Schley and his wife experienced Germany hospitality using Airbnb. They enjoyed the cultural experience as they learned about the country from their hosts as well as from others staying at the home who shared their knowledge of German agriculture. The Schleys recommend travelers consider Airbnb.

The Schleys found those at the show accommodating to a couple with a young child. “They treated us like minor royalty,” Schley said. “Clay, who is almost 2, got lots of gummy bears from vendors and he had a lot of fun running through the buildings.”

In visiting with others who stayed at the Airbnb, Schley said the Germans he met didn’t know much about American agriculture. Farmers in Europe live in town and behind their house they may have a shed that is more like a maintenance building where they keep semis and equipment.

Unique concepts

One design showed wagons pulled with an ag version of a semi with a hydraulic hookup which could plug into farm equipment. Schley said he could see how this ag semi could do field work with less compaction than an over-the-road semi. As it drives like a semi, this machine can go 50 mph to a field eight miles away. They use it for manure hauling, slurry hauling and anything that is big and bulky.

Pix4D is a company that uses drone imagery to find variability in the field. It is used for scouting before prescriptions are locked in for planting. “It was cool to talk to them and to find out specifically what they can do for our farm,” Schley said.

Schley saw a feed wagon which would interest people in the Midwest. Faresin offers a self-propelled version which combines a payloader and feed wagon. The displays used virtual reality headsets to show how the wagon worked. While Schley thought it was interesting, he considered what would happen if an operation only had one of these machines and it broke down. “We have a second payloader on our farm, but I can’t see spending $200,000 on a second one of these — it is like putting all of your eggs in one basket.”

“The event opened my eyes about the diversity in agriculture,” Schley said. “Most everyone I know grows corn and beans. I didn’t understand the importance of those who raise crops like carrots and sugar beets. It takes all kinds of operations to produce food and fiber for the world. Agritechnica was a wonderful way to see the fascinating technologies used in our industry.”

Schley made a companion Youtube video which can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/y7dtxsrv.

Connie Sieh Groop is a freelance ag journalist. If you have any suggestions for ag stories, email her at conniegroop19@gmail.com.

Dusty Schley of Stratford and his son Clay took a close look at this white Lamborghini tractor at Agritechnica in Hanover, Germany. Courtesy photo
One design at Agritechnica in Hanover, Germany, showed wagons pulled with an ag version of a semi with a hydraulic hookup which could plug into farm equipment. Courtesy photo
Twenty buildings showcased the exhibits at Agritechnica in Hanover, Germany. Some companies built buildings within buildings. Courtesy photo