I Vote For Simpler Machinery
Dec 22, 2017
You folks made some interesting comments regarding my post about whether or not farmers really want all the technology that's built-in or optional on modern farm equipment. I tossed out some thoughts, made a few comments for the sake of stirring discussion, and appreciate the time you took to express your views.
Personally, I have mixed emotions about the technology on modern farm equipment. Lets take planters and combines as examples. In my experience the new high-speed planters won't replace traditional planters in the near future, but they are an excellent way to increase acres per hour without planters getting wider and wider and more cumbersome. BUT--the technology to power, control and monitor electric seed delivery systems has to be computerized, and computerized is synonymous with expensive/complicated. Other "cutting edge" technologies on planters--including on-the-go downforce control systems, remotely adjustable row cleaners, remotely adjustable closing wheel pressure, and real-time monitoring of seed population, spacing, etc.---are not only mechanically complex but also computer controlled. And so we're back to expensive.
The same applies to many systems on combines. Automatic header height control, the ability to adjust combine settings from the cab, air conditioning--those aren't optional anymore, and I don't think they should be. When you're spending 18 hours a day in a machine, some things that were luxuries to our grandfathers become necessities in today's high-pressure world of agriculture. Some consider auto-steer a necessity--others are aghast at spending money to simply steer a machine.
I guess my question is, "For all the expense added to the purchase and maintenance price of planters and combines, do those add-ons net the operator any more money than a 30-year-old machine without all the bells and whistles?" Farmers with big acreages and big equipment garner a lot of attention from equipment manufacturers and equipment dealers. But there are a ton of small- and mid-size farmers around the country running older, simpler equipment who get paid the same per bushel as their mega-neighbor. When it's all said and done, which operator has a better net profit?
I don't have an answer to the questions I've raised. But I have a feeling that if an equipment manufacturer built a "simple" planter or combine for a reasonable price, many of those small- to mid-size farmers who are nursing older machines might consider upgrading their equipment.