Eric Froebel is a man who truly appreciates the sophistication of modern farm equipment.
“With all its onboard software and hardware technology, a state-of-the-art tractor or combine is more like a fighter jet than the family car,” he observes.
Froebel, who is director of global engineering processes and IT architecture at AGCO Corporation, is not exaggerating. Loaded with sensor-driven telematics, GPS positioning, automatic guidance systems, and wireless data transfer technology, it’s easy to imagine a top-of-the-line tractor as the F-35 of the farm field.
This is exactly the kind of farm equipment that AGCO is known for manufacturing. And Froebel sees such high-tech machines as a present-day necessity.
“World population is growing, while the planet’s arable land is decreasing,” Froebel says matter-of-factly. “That means the yield from smaller amounts of land has to feed more people.”
There’s little doubt that sophisticated farm equipment and the larger world of the Internet of Things (IoT) will play an important role in boosting future harvests.
The IoT of farming
In fact, IoT could be biggest thing in agriculture since the domestication of farm animals.
“Smart agriculture and precision farming are taking off, but they could just be the precursors to even greater use of technology in the farming world,” notes a recent article in Business Insider. “The IoT is set to push the future of farming to the next level.”
The article points out that advancements such as agricultural drones, farm-field sensors, and self-driving tractors promise to be powerful tools in improving the efficiency of day-to-day work out on the farm.
Furthermore, this technology will be churning out enormous amounts of data.
Business Insider predicts IoT device installations in the agriculture world will increase from 30 million in 2015 to 75 million in 2020, and that the average farm will generate an average of 4.1 million data points per day in 2050.
Maximizing the yield from this data will be key.
AGCO’s vision of the connected farm
Part of AGCO’s vision is a next-generation approach to precision agriculture that it calls Fuse. Fuse is designed to provide mixed-fleet farming operations with improved access to their farm data to make more informed business decisions – resulting in enhanced productivity and profitability. It connects the entire crop cycle from enterprise planning and planting to crop care, harvesting, and grain storage.
“Of course, we want our equipment to talk to each other and to our management systems,” says Froebel, “but our strategy reflects a more open architecture. If a farmer already has a farm management solution, we want to be able to feed that system information too.”
Wheels firmly on the ground
But agricultural sophistication comes with its challenges as well. For farmers, these include issues such as data privacy and equipment maintenance that is, in itself, high-tech.
Again, better quality data is likely part of the solution.
“We want to gather live maintenance data from our machines,” says Christian Klingler, AGCO’s manager of global costing tools and process. “Not only so the farmer can manage their own equipment, but also for us as a manufacturer to use a means to improve our products.”
With global brands that include Massey Ferguson, Challenger, GSI, Valtra, and Fendt, AGCO is committed to promoting sustainable farm mechanization around the world.
Wherever it operates, one thing is certain. The piece of equipment tilling today’s farm fields is not your grandfather’s tractor.
Fueled by still-evolving IoT technologies, these modern miracle machines seem to do everything but fly.
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