IT’S a field day - on steroids. Europe’s biggest agricultural machinery trade show, the five-day SIMA exhibition, wrapped up in Paris last week after drawing more than 248,000 visitors from Europe and around the world.
As the last snow flurries of winter blanketed the countryside, 1700 exhibitors from more than 40 countries took the opportunity to showcase the latest innovations in agricultural equipment in the indoor comfort of six massive pavilions at the Paris-Nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre near Charles de Gaulle airport.
Salesmen in suits plied their trade, backed by slick big-screen presentations, music and light shows, while the swarming crowds of predominantly European farmers - like farmers everywhere – “kicked tyres” and sought out the latest advances on equipment to suit their operations.
Barely an English accent, let alone an Australian twang, was to be heard amongst the din of French and European languages that filled the halls.
And, sadly for any Australian visitors, there were no breed society steak sandwiches or hearty meat pies to sate a lunchtime hunger – instead Continental farmers happily congregated at food outlets serving tiny cups of strong black coffee and baguettes filled with smoked meats and exotic cheeses.
Despite its European focus, there was much to interest Australian visitors to SIMA.
Some of the companies exhibiting were well recognised names in the Australian market, but most were unfamiliar with a host of product variations and innovations to suit their particular markets.
The vast majority of machinery at the exhibition was aimed at high intensity farming systems common to Europe, with particularly strong representation from tillage, spraying, fodder conservation and stockfeeding equipment suppliers.
Heavy tillage manufacturers with all manner of robust soil busting gear were a noticeable force at SIMA.
Full inversion tillage is commonplace across Europe where there has been no perceived need for the type of conservation tillage revolution that has been taken up by Australian farmers on Australia’s more ancient, vulnerable soils.
Even the traditional mouldboard plough - a rarity in Australia nowadays – featured as a mainstream product on the stands of a long list of manufacturers supplying the European market.
Likewise, SIMA was brimming with a wide selection of crop spraying equipment where the trend, as in Australia, is towards self-propelled units.
European farmers have fewer concerns than their Australian counterparts about water shortages for their crops, instead having to focus on spraying their crops more often for fungal disease, weed and pest control in the damper European conditions.
Many of the sprayer manufacturers at SIMA cater to the predominantly narrow-wheel-base, small-field requirements of the European market which is a smaller segment of the Australian market where there is more demand for wider-wheel-base, broadacre machines.
The latest advances in GPS technologies, health and safety compliance and exhaust pollution mitigation were prominent themes at SIMA.
Exhibitors generally reported higher levels of interest and farmer optimism at this year’s event, flowing from a buoyant agricultural sector in Europe.
The machinery industry in Europe has seen significant recovery in the past few years after being hit hard by the impact of the Global Financial Crisis.
France is one of the countries showing strong growth, recording a 32.4 per cent rise in machinery sales in 2011 and 18pc in 2012.
About 41,500 tractors were sold in France in 2012, representing growth of 10pc, and haymaking and tillage equipment saw a 20pc increase in sales. Neil Lyon visited SIMA as a guest of the exhibition.