Looking Into Farming's Future

Published on: 18:42PM Nov 26, 2015

if you don't like messing with hydraulic systems, you may like changes that loom on the horizon for farm equipment. According to trade publications, farm equipment manufacturers are investing a lot of time and money into replacing some hydraulic systems with high-voltage electrical systems.

Long story short, hydraulic systems require lots of pumps, motors, valves and controllers, not to mention hundreds of feet of hoses, to raise and lower equipment and do all the things that hydraulics now do on farm equipment. In the past. electrically powered systems were at a disadvantage because of inefficiencies with energy generation, transmission and the way electric motors used that energy. There have been dramatic improvements in the way mobile electrical power can be generated, sophisticated computerization has revolutionized switching technologies and also improved the efficiency and torque of electric motors.

This all means that in the future we may see tractors with engines that drive powerful electric generators that drive electric motors on each of the drive wheels--like on train locomotives. Instead of running a myriad of hydraulic hoses to hydraulic cylinders or hydraulic motors on equipment, there will be a thick electrical cable connected to sophisticated electric motors to power electric motors to lift, fold, adjust, drive or do all the things hydraulics now do.

In many cases it will be nice to say goodbye to leaking hydraulic hoses and the other annoyances associated with hydraulic systems. But every new technology brings new challenges and in the case of high-performance electrical systems on farm equipment, new risks of which operators need to be aware. Just as rescue crews have had to learn to deal with the dangers associated with the high-voltage electrical systems in hybrid or electrically-powered cars involved in car wrecks, farmers and mechanics will have to deal with the risk of getting more than a "buzz" if they come in contact with high-voltage wires in futuristic farm equipment.

One things I can definitely predict: Futuristic farm equipment using up to 1,400 volts of electricity is going to be a real thrill for anyone who uses the old diagnostic trick of brushing bared wires against a piece of bare metal to, "see if this wire is hot."