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September 2012 Archive for Machinery Journal

RSS By: Aimee Cope, Farm Journal

The Machinery Journal blog is your place to find the latest machinery updates, industry news, and interesting tid bits.

When Harvest is a Time to Help

Sep 25, 2012

No doubt that the spirit of rural life in America rings true when neighbors help neighbors at a time of need. The trend of Combine Bees (or Harvest Bees) has emerged to help those farming operations who experienced hardship.

Here are two inspirational articles here and here.
Ashley Gulke Leavitt, of the Gulke Group, shared the story that her and her husband joined in a combing bee local man in North Dakota who had a heart attack. In the first week of September they joined efforts with 16 combines, 7 semis, and a bunch of grain carts. They got 1200 acres harvested in a day.
See the picture below.
combining bee
And share your story of how you've helped a neighbor this harvest. You can email me at or comment below.

Witness to History: Driverless Tractor

Sep 21, 2012

Earlier this week I was able to see something that will be a milestone in agriculture.

In the middle of harvest, Monmouth, Ill., farmer Rick Elliott got a call from one of the neighbors.
"He was driving by and asked me ‘Is there anyone in that grain cart tractor?!" Rick says.

But there was no cause for alarm. Elliott’s tractor was following the combine through the field, unloading on the go, without anyone sitting in the cab. His farm was one of three in western Illinois testing the Kinze Autonomous Harvest System.

See the driverless tractor in the field:

"After unveiling our project in July of 2011, we are excited to demonstrate it in the field," says Susie Veatch, vice president and Chief Marketing Officer of Kinze Manufacturing.

The Kinze Autonomous Harvest System is comprised of the combine, tractor and grain cart outfitted with sensors, ruggedized computers, and GPS sensors. The system is controlled by the combine operator using a hand-held tablet computer and eliminates the need for an operator in the tractor cab to haul the grain cart.

"The goals for this system are efficiency, productivity, and safety," says Rhett Schildroth, Kinze product manager. "Farmers are experiencing a shortage in skilled operators for the seasonal work at harvest and planting. We also know that it’s key for the system to run as safe at the end of the day as it did at the beginning."

The autonomy project started in the lab in 2009. Then it was tested on the Kinzenbaw farm up until this year, when it’s the first year the system has been tested outside of Kinze.

"Our system takes control of the tractor’s engine, transmission, steering and brakes," Schildroth explains.

Schildroth visits with Farm Journal's Pam Fretwell:

Components on the tractor include: GPS receiver, inertial measurement sensors for hills, wheel encoders, LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors, radar sensors for far-reaching sensing and a camera to see what the systems sees.

The components on the combine include: an emergency stop button, GPS receiver, communication module that networks the machines, and a tablet, which is the user interface.

Basically, the system performs in four modes: follow, unload, park, idle.

In follow, the tractor and grain cart follow the combine’s path through the field. The system reads where the combine has operated and designates those areas as safe for travel. If obstacles are known in the field, the operator can indicate them on the map, or if obstacles are encountered during harvest, for example an extreme wet hole, the area can also be marked as an obstacle to be avoided.

When the combine is ready to be unloaded, the tractor and grain cart pull alongside the combine, and sensors provide real-time reaction to any adjustments made by the combine in speed and direction.

"The system is continuously scanned for obstacles in the field so that when it’s time to meet the combine it calculates a path factoring in any obstacles. If it can’t map around an obstacle, then it stops," Schildroth says. "Right now, it doesn’t run as fast as a human operator would–7 mph when following the combine; 9 mph for field travel."

To park the tractor and cart, the combine operator hits the park button and the machinery returns to designated area at the edge of the field.

In idle, the system comes to a stop wherever it is until further instruction.

"The technology is hidden from the farmer. They have the tablet and that’s all –- four buttons and an aerial view of the filed." Schildroth says. "Having it be simple means our farmers have been able to learn how to use the system in an hour and within a day it’s part of their routine."

Trained technicians installed the three systems for testing this fall, and that process took between one to two days.

Veatch explains that the company put out a call to district sales managers to find willing cooperators to test the system.

"We wanted flat ground for this initial testing and this area had good crops despite the tough growing conditions of this year," she says. "And there were three farmers within 8 miles that were willing to be part of our project."

Elliott Brothers Farms (Rick is partners with his brother Dan and other family members), Kent Armstrong and Joe Krupps were the three partners, and all of them are Kinze customers through Painter Farm Equipment.

"Ten years ago we were skeptical about GPS, automated steering, clutches on the planter, and other technologies," says Todd Painter, Painter Farm Equipment. "But those have been highly accepted by our customers. We have 80% or more of our customers using GPS technologies on their farm. Technology is here to stay, and this autonomous system is the next thing to come."

Krupps, who farms near Galesburg, Ill., says he is not quick to adopt technology on his farm and doesn’t have any autoguidance or steering systems used in his operation currently. But he says the autonomous system was easy to bring onto his farm.

"I read last winter about the concept, But I am not exactly a technology leader," he says. "The whole system surprised me–how well it worked, how they made this user friendly. It follows instructions better than some employees."

Cooperating farmer Armstrong started using automated steering systems on his farm only three years ago and says he’s impressed with how accurate the system is.

"I haven’t run any corn on the ground this harvest," he says. "The tablet gives you a countdown for how long it’ll take for the cart to travel to get to the combine, and the cart stays right with my unload auger."

The Elliott Brothers farming operation has multiple machines with GPS autoguidance and RTK steering systems, Rick reports this system easily fit into their operation.

"The system is designed the way a farmer would have done it," he says. "It’s simple to give the system the command you want in the field—four buttons, that’s it."

Elliott visits with Farm Journal's Pam Fretwell about the Kinze technology:

The tractor can be switched from autonomous to manual mode. When the tractor is in idle mode, the farmer can lower the bottom step on the tractor, which has sensors installed to automatically disengage the autonomous system. From there, the operator takes back over with control, until they exit the tractor and lift the step to re-engage the autonomous system.

In autonomous mode, before the tractor leaves its designated parking area, the lights flash and the tractor beeps and revs its engine to alert it’s about to move.

The company demonstrated on John Deere tractors but says it has designed the system to be compatible with any make of tractor or combine. Once commercially available, Kinze plans on offering kits for specific models.

For now, they’ve already designed it for a variety of harvesting conditions. For example, when cutting soybeans at an angle, the system follows the combine path and reacts in real time. Or if farming amid waterways, the system can understand tilt, and if the wheels start spinning in extreme conditions, the tractor shuts off. Also, terraces can be set as obstacles in the field.
The field testing has provided improvements to the system as well.

"The biggest improvements this year are that we added the tablet as the user interface and with adjustments to the software, we’ve improved the time it takes for the tractor’s path to be determined," Schildroth says.

Although there isn’t a project date for commercial availability of the system, Kinze is also working on applying the autonomous technology to planting applications.

"Farmers will want increased productivity, rapid return on investment, and we’ll continue to innovate around the autonomous solution," Schildroth says. "Next year we’ll have more testing."
The Autonomous Harvest System is only designed for off road use. The system will not work on any roads.


In-the-Field Video Instruction

Sep 15, 2012

Up to 50% of farmers have a smart phone. And manufacturers are taking note.

For example, on its Rebel line of balers, Vermeer has installed QR codes on specific service areas of the machines. QR Codes allow someone to use an app on their phone to “read” the QR code (it looks like a square jumbled barcode) and then automatically displays a video from the company.
According to Bellana Putz with Vermeer, the two codes are located at the areas of the product that receive the highest number of help calls to the dealership and the factory. The 2D code will connect operators to real time videos that show how to properly thread netwrap or twine through the baler.
“These videos are designed to alleviate troubleshooting delays,” Putz says. “There aren’t any words to the video, but rather the videos display 2 minutes of straight-forward action to resolve common problems.”
The Rebel series of balers are designed for the rural lifestyle/hobby farmer market. And Vermeer claims this is the first application of the technology in this way for agriculture.
QR code agriculture

Bobcat Goes Social

Sep 14, 2012

There are more ways than ever to connect with companies, and this example is Bobcat. Yes, the Bobcat that makes skid steers, compact tractors and utility vehicles. They’ve officially launched six accounts on social media platforms. Here’s the full list, and I bet they’d love to hear from you


Top Tips Before Storing the Sprayer

Sep 13, 2012

Before you tuck away the sprayer for the winter, Hagie Manufacturing advises a post-season inspection.

The top areas to check are:
·       Fluid Levels
·       Hydraulic System
·       Engine
·       Boom Structure
·       Grease Service Points
·       Performing Winterization
·       Routine Maintenance and Service Needs
The company has launched which offers online service scheduling for customers.

One-of-a-Kind Skid Steer Auction Will Support FFA

Sep 12, 2012

What a win-win opportunity for farmers. There’s a live online auction right now for a one-of-a-kind Case Skid Steer hosted by Purple Wave, and when the auction closes on Sept. 30, the proceeds will go 89% to the National FFA Foundation, 10% to the winning bidder’s state FFA association and 1% to the winning bidder’s FFA chapter of choice.

2012 8 28 Red Power Skid Steer AuctionFFA Low Res IML

Nicknamed “Red Power” the Case model SV250 up on the auction is a unique skid steer with: dual chrome exhaust stacks, custom eight-spoke-pattern wheels with chrome center caps and lugs, tinted cab windows and a custom red leather seat. Red LED lighting illuminates the skid steer’s undercarriage, the rear add-on counterweights, the operator compartment and the loader arm. The cab also features indirect LED lighting and LED spots in the air conditioning vents.
For more than 60 years, Case IH and its local dealers have supported the FFA, including their current sponsorship of the New Century Farmer and American FFA Degree programs.
To view the auction listing, read the terms and place bids, visit
And here’s a video shot by Machinery Pete with even more details:

Update: Geringhoff’s Live Announcement

Sep 11, 2012

German company Geringhoff announced its first factory to make ag equipment in the U.S.

Located in St. Cloud, MN, the factory will produce Geringhoff harvesting equipment, including its line of corn heads.
And the surrounding community and state seem to be thrilled. The press conference, which was attended by state and local politicians including Gov. Mark Dayton, Geringhoff corporate leaders, and other notable leaders, was broadcast live on the Geringhoff website.
The mayor of the city of St. Cloud, Dave Kleis, opened his remarks in German with, “Guten Morgen.”
He shared the story that St. Cloud was founded by a man named John Wilson who bought the entire area of the downtown for $100 and then gave it to German merchants who were willing to come and build the community.
Another historical legacy that builds on this announcement is that there were more than 100 tractor manufacturers that began in the state of Minnesota.
Geringhoff was founded in Germany in 1880 to make steam powered tractors and threshing machines and today is in its fifth generation of family ownership.
Geringhoff CEO Daniel Hansmeier and President of Geringhoff North America Joe Jandrisch have been working to establish a manufacturing center in the U.S. for more than two years. In the coming weeks, Geringhoff will hire 100 employees to manufacture its equipment in a factory that was chosen from more than 60 sites considered.
Since 2004, Geringhoff has been imported and represented in the U.S. by Minot, N.D. headquartered AEMSCO.
Jandrisch said that the manufacturing facility will focus on the Geringhoff products sold in North America, and Hansmeier made reference to products being developed specifically for North American markets.
One such project, which is still in development in the Geringhoff Independence Corn Head. When it was first being tested it was called by the code word, VC, and the development team is now working on the 10th revision of the prototype highlighted in this YouTube video.

“The Independence is our secret weapon,” Jandrisch says. “This will allow farmers to harvest the crops of the future in every row spacing in any direction.”



A few weeks back I received a postcard boasting “German Engineering, American Muscle.”

This was the latest news from Geringhoff which plans a live broadcast at 11 a.m. CST to announce the full details. You can find that broadcast on their website here: 
Company officials wouldn't reveal any details... so I’ll also be tuning in and will provide an update here on my blog.

The Light-Hearted Side of Lexion

Sep 07, 2012

With the extreme crop conditions of this past year, many farmers are looking to bounce back after this tough harvest. 


There’s a Lexion model that is literally doing just that—at the fall farm shows the company has an inflatable slide that is in the shape and color scheme of a Lexion combine. Most machines aim for a smooth cab ride, but Lexion’s newest model boasts about its bounce.
Jokingly referred to as the "entry level" Lexion, it produces 12-15 kp (kid power) and is Tier 4-compliant. Its shipping weight is just over 1,000 lb.  
For the multiple generations of farming families that attend farm shows, this inflatable display provides a playground for younger members of the family, and the company puts benches around the slide for parents. At farm shows, kids aren’t usually allowed to climb, slide down, and crawl under the machinery on display, but in this play zone, they are encouraged to.
According to Claas, one Iowa farmer did ask about ordering a Bouncy Lexion Combine for his grandson, but there’s no word if the order was placed.
This Lexion was originally part of the Checkered Flag events held at dealerships to promote the Field Ready Reconditioned Combines.
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