THERE was a clear message in 2018 about the future of machinery technology.
It came from manufacturers presenting new products which are a whisker away from being autonomous vehicles (AVs).
Case IH and New Holland re-enforced the message, announcing details of their trials with driver-less machinery.
Case IH, through its Autonomy and Automation Program, is researching and piloting autonomous technology in real-life scenarios.
According to the company, diverse farming operations throughout the world require varying levels of automation.
Through extensive customer-driven product design research, the company found that current and future technology needs fall into five categories of automation for agricultural field applications.
- Co-ordination and Optimisation.
- Operator-assisted automation.
- Supervised autonomy.
- Full autonomy.
Meanwhile, New Holland Agriculture is partnering with E & J Gallo Winery, the largest family-owned winery in the world and loyal customer of New Holland specialty tractors, in a pilot project testing its NHDrive autonomous technology applied to T4.110F vineyard tractors.
This collaborative pilot program is focused on gathering agronomic and operator feedback on the use of this technology in everyday vineyard activities, with the ultimate objective of delivering autonomous solutions that are driven by the real-world requirements of winegrowers.
The pilot program is the latest step in New Holland’s autonomous vehicle program and its exploration of the various applications that can benefit the most from this technology, from high horsepower row crop tractors through to its specialty ranges.
Other major manufacturers also are in the race to produce so-called AVs.
Kubota Australia started an ‘autonomous’ project in Australia two years ago, while John Deere has been involved since at least 2005 when it unveiled an AV prototype before producing remote-controlled all-terrain vehicles for the United States Army.
There was no public announcement from either company in 2018 referring to their R & D progress.
A snapshot of new products released this year reflected the advancements companies are making with new technology availability.
Esperance farmer George Hulm earlier this year became Australia’s first owner of a Case IH Steiger 500 CVT Quadtrac tractor.
The fuel-efficient unit also claimed for the first time, 100 per cent mechanical power transfer below 10 kilometres an hour, matching heavy draft application requirements.
The Steiger CVT transmission was specifically designed for applications requiring more than 298 kilowatts (400 horsepower).
New Holland also stumped up with its T9 Series, the T9.670 and T9.615 models, both equipped with SmartTrax II tracks.
The T9.670 develops 500kW (670hp), while the T9.615 is rated at 459kW (615hp).
Both models were kept busy in demonstrations this year clocking up hours of speed tillering and seeding throughout the WA Wheatbelt with some impressive statistics for power-to-ground and fuel efficiency.
The T9.615 ,was officially unveiled at the McIntosh & Son Mingenew Mid West Expo and both models were displayed at the Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days.
AGCO’s contribution was the MT700 Series, which it claimed delivered a new level of track tractor performance, ride comfort, operating efficiency and on-board intelligence to maximise uptime, productivity and profitability.
The tractor features a new engine, transmission, undercarriage and hydraulics.
The three models have power ratings between 283kW (380hp) and 321kW (431hp) delivered by AGCO Power 9.8L Tier 3 diesel engines equipped with concentric air systems (CAS).
John Deere’s new tractors will be unveiled next year but the company released details of several productivity-enhancing updates and operator comfort and convenience changes to its 9R and 8R Series tractors.
For the first time, the company is offering a 3.05 metre track spacing option on 9470RX, 9520RX, 9570RX and 9620RX Series four track tractors equipped with 76.2 centimetres and 91.4cm width tracks.
The 8R Series, which includes track models, will see a range of improvements to enhance productivity, improved steering response when working in heavy draft, soft soil conditions and in obstacle avoidance manoeuvres.
A factory-installed Generation 4 CommandCenter 18-1 software update is also included as base equipment on 8R and 8RT models.
It came late in the season but AGCO’s much anticipated new IDEAL combine harvester, badged as a Massey Ferguson, was quickly put into action in WA and has impressed with its performance in a range of crops and conditions.
This is the header that is a forerunner to full autonomy, equipped with 52 sensors, including mass acoustic detection sensors (MADS) that measure the differences in acoustic qualities to determine what is grain and what is not.
The IDEAL is available in a three model range (7, 8 and 9), with power ratings from AGCO Power and MAN engines ranging from 366kW (490hp) to 483kW (647hp), linked to a step-less transmission.
According to AGCO, the 8 and 9 models are equipped with twin rotors, each 4.8 metres in length and 600 millimetres in diameter, making them the longest when measured against competitive brands.
Another new header in the same genre is the new Lexion 770, released by CLAAS Harvest Centre.
It is equipped with enough technology to allow inexperienced operators to take a shift during harvest.
This mainly comes from the CLAAS Cemos Automatic System, which continuously adjusts features such as grain separation and cleaning.
Cemos is designed to have the machine always operating at maximum capacity and efficiency while still keeping grain quality at its best.
Components controlled by the automatic system include rotor and fan speed along with the sieves, which assists with the cleaning process.
These functions are shown on the system terminal so operators can keep track of what adjustments are made.
The company also has introduced the ‘Cmotion’ control switch, which handles much of the operation of the header.
The system is designed to be as intuitive as possible with data accessed anywhere via the internet and information, such as yield mapping, viewed graphically for easier dissemination.
‘Dynamic cooling’ incorporates a variable fan drive that automatically adjusts the cooling capacity as required by the engine, which CLAAS says helps save up to 15kW (20hp).
Located horizontally behind the engine, the radiator draws in clean air from above the combine through a 1.6 metre wide rotating sieve filter.
The air is then directed downwards through the radiator and engine bay, before exiting through louvres that direct the air down the side of the combine, creating a curtain of air that prevents dust rising.
As a result, the engine bay is kept far cleaner, which in turn, means less maintenance.
John Deere also weighed in to a future AV market, with a four model range designated the S700 Series – S760, S770, S780 and S790.
Models feature a CommandCenter which includes a Gen 4 interface and monitor with 4600 processor; CommandArm and multi-function control lever with greater ergonomic design and customisable buttons; premium activation with AutoTrac, RowSense and HarvestDoc and Extended Monitor and mobile device features.
In addition, operators will find set up and start-up much quicker and easier, thanks to more intuitive harvest run and set-up screens.
But it was not only the ‘big boys’ that were beneficiaries of new technology.
Case IH announced a new model combine harvester for smaller operators.
Designated the 6130 Axial-Flow, the company claimed power efficiency and responsiveness were hallmarks of the header, which was suited to a range of applications within the local market.
The 6130 has a Tier 3 engine rated at 240kW (322hp) with a boost to 285kW (382hp).
This is linked to a two-speed hydro transmission allowing for a maximum harvest speed of 13.5km/h, fixed cleaning system and a large grain tank (300 bushels).
It was all about self-propelled boomsprayers in WA this year, though trailed units held onto a portion of the market.
Australian manufacturer Goldacres was first out of the gates, releasing its new G8 track model.
Featuring four independent Soucy tracks, it also sported a new 48 metre tri-fold boom with spray widths of 20, 36 and 48m.
Goldacres’ mechanical drive system and its fuel efficiency won over a sizeable number of WA farmers this year.
The 8000 litre G8 boasts a Cummins engine linked to a 2500 series Allison transmission with the 6.7L QSB power plant tuned to produce 194kW (260hp).
The hydraulic system is driven directly from the transmission to provide plenty of oil flow without the engine working at high RPM, keeping fuel use to a minimum and providing better hydraulic performance.
A great feature on the Goldacres Super Cruisers is the ISO-compatibility, allowing any guidance system to steer the unit, as well as make use of the VT screen as a product controller.
The VT screen also displays the new Norac ISO auto-height control which is an option on all Goldacres sprayers.
John Deere’s entry was the John Deere R4060 SP.
The new model featured a 6000L stainless steel tank, a 40m carbon fibre boom and Deere’s optional ExactApply nozzle control system (similar to pulse width modulation).
Powered by a 258kW (346hp), 9L Deere Powertech engine, linked to a hydrostatic transmission, it is capable of a road speed of 56km/h and also can be optioned with Boom Trac and JDLink.
Deere says its ExactApply system offers three times the pulsing frequency of traditional systems on a wide variety of nozzles.
Massey Ferguson made a surprising announcement this year, releasing a MF 9130 Plus targeted to fill demand in the market for a entry level SP machine that will suit smaller and medium-sized operators.
The MF 9130 Plus features a AGCO Power six cylinder 157kW (210hp) Tier Three engine, a 365 litre fuel tank, 3000L commodity tank with 240L fresh water flush tank, a 549 litres per minute Hypro stainless steel ‘force field’ main commodity pump, options for a 24m or 28m boom with fence line nozzles and Norac boom-leveling as standard.
For the smaller-sized farmers, Case IH released a Patriot 2230, a cousin to the larger 4430 and 3330 models.
The company said that while the 2230 was not for big players, its performance and features made it a perfect partner for many producers, from vegetable farmers to medium broadacre.
A new round baler turned heads with hay and silage producers this year.
Released by Krone, the Comprima Xtreme CV150XC double wraps a finished bale while forming another.
According to Krone, the variable bale-forming chamber consists of two belt and slat elevators that wrap the entire bale from the core, with a three-stage mechanical soft core adjustment standard.
The Comprima XC produces bales from 0.9-1.5m, either hay or silage.
An initial wrap is done when the bale is formed and then it is double wrapped (for silage bales) before ejection.
The first owner in WA described the process as “bales being Gladwrapped”.
Case IH said its new round baler range was the culmination of three years of world-wide field testing.
Designated the RB5 Series, Case IH said a feature of the RB455 and RB465 models was that two hydraulic cylinders were used to compress bales to increase bale density and consistency.
The RB5 Series balers also come with ISOBUS Class 3 automation, which when coupled with an appropriate tractor, stops the tractor when the target bale size is reached; allows for automatic application of net wrap to the bale and automatically raises and lowers the baler tailgate to eject the wrapped bale.
In November, Kubota raised the bar for Australian mowers launching the 11.2m Krone BiG M450CR self-propelled mower.
Featuring a six-cylinder, in-line Liebherr engine with PowerSplit control delivering 335kW (449hp) of power, it has a safe working speed of up to 25km/hr and a travelling speed of 40km/h.
Kubota said this model was specifically designed for the Australian and North American markets.
Some of the toughest sowing conditions ever experienced provided an ideal test for the newly launched Morris Quantum air drill.
Released by Morris Australia distributor McIntosh Distribution, the drill was set up on 300mm tine spacings, was working to a depth of 100m and seeding at 15-20mm.
According to Morris, the Quantum incorporates Morris’ patent-pending, interlocking frame technology that has made it 154 per cent stronger than previous drills and which, combined with the increased weight and stronger openers featuring 2.5cm (1in) chrome pins, provides the ability for deeper tilling.
New 10 x 15cm tubular frames with the Quantum are connected with chrome pins that are 27pc larger than those used on previous machines.
Other features include improved shank spacing options, large single flotation tyres, three metre controlled traffic capability with metric spacings and 5.4m transport width, 75pc less parts and 60pc less weldments, a stronger front and rear hitch design and an active hydraulic system with ability to control Morris auto-lift and auto-pack control.
John Deere also unveiled its latest seeding bar – the 18.2m 1895 No-Till Air Drill.
The company claimed it incorporated many new technologies designed to improve seed and fertiliser placement, while decreasing soil disturbance and maintenance demands.
New features included ProSeries Openers, RelativeFlow blockage warning system, TruSet down-force pressure control and larger, high-flotation tyres.
Cunderdin manufacturer Trufab Farm Machinery changed its name to Grain King this year and marked the event with the release of the NYREX Maximus, a mobile mother grain bin.
Grain King will build the NYREX Maximus in two capacity sizes - 160,000L (130 tonnes) and 200,000L (160t).
The family-run business was established in 1962 and initially was involved with mechanical repairs.
But it evolved into a specialist manufacturer of farm machinery.
Geraldton manufacturer Nufab Equipment also created a lot of world-wide publicity with its Armadillo self-propelled spader.
Based on a spader designed by Badgingarra farmer David Hayes, it is fitted with ‘spades’ he designed from grader blades to inhibit soil fluffing up.
The spader comprises two heavy duty rotors with 24 spades attached to each rotor and housed in a specially-designed steel chassis incorporating a drawbar and a row to attach leading ‘ripper’ tynes.
A QSMII 11 litre 298kW (400hp) Cummins engine is mounted on the drawbar to increase horsepower requirements to drive the rotors PTOs alone will not be able to supply the necessary power.
With a 6.1m working width, it is designed for controlled traffic farming.
DE Engineers launched its biggest ever display at this year’s Dowerin GWN7 Machinery Field Days, including a new 150t capacity silo, which forced DE to make its own custom-built trailer for transport.
“Our 100t model can fill two road trains but this new one will fill three and there is a demand for it,” DE principal Kevin Prater said.
“We’ve made it from high tensile steel on the floor to cater for the heavier load and there are galvanised shin plates under every leg to eliminate moisture build-up.
“Because of the height you’ll need a 75 foot (23m) auger and we’ve brought in a Canadian-made Meridian auger that does the job.”
Ausplow consolidated its reputation as an agronomy-focused tillage manufacturer announcing a collaboration with Kwinana-based liquid nutrient company Nutrian.
Ausplow also nominated WA company Furrow Management Systems’ as its preferred supplier of a liquid kit, using Friction Flow tubing for its DBS bars, plumbed to its Multistream air seeder.
Nutrian also hit the news this year with the announcement it was planning a major program with Ausplow to trial in-furrow nutrient placement.
Nutrian director and chemical engineer Dave Seagreen admits said his company was developing products at the nano level because the smaller the particle size the more rapid the uptake by plants.
“I think this is a game-changer for farmers wanting to change to liquids and we’ve got about 40pc of our products developed at this nano level,” he said.