Note: This is the fifth and final daily blog during the 2015 Farm Progress Show. You can check out all the other installments from this week using the related links at the end of this installment. Thanks for reading.
Correction: When originally published we mistated the size of the business at Farmlogs, this has been corrected below.
I've got this step counter that came as a new app when I updated my iPhone awhile back (got a new iPhone last week, but that's for another blog) and I've started using it to keep track of my daily activity.
Yes I shared that I have a gator with my name on it (you can see the image here) but frankly for Day 1 and Day 2 of the show I don't use it - that's for the content team here at Penton Ag to get out to the field demos and get photos. And with the big crowds we had this year at the show, I could move faster walking rather than skirting around visitors.
So I walk.
And while I do use the Gator on Thursday, for Day 1 and Day 2 of the 2015 Farm Progress Show I counted more than 12,000 steps each day. Not bad with a briefcase backpack. But what did I get to see for all that walking, plenty, and I'm still processing. But to start, here five initial thoughts on what I saw after three days at the Farm Progress Show.
Heat does not deter visitors. Show attendance was solid for all three days. I don't look at visitor stats, but from going to this show for more than 20 years, I saw good crowds based on history for all three days - Wednesday remains the biggest day.
Farmers are looking to upgrade. While equipment sales are soft, talk from a few exhibitors was that you're looking to upgrade your machines. For example Danea Armstrong, president of Norac, the auto-boom height company now owned by Topcon, noted that their after-market business was running strong in 2015. Think about it, you have a sprayer and instead of buying a new machine a simple upgrade like auto-boom height control can give you new functionality and efficiency for less.
With the combine head upgrades we're seeing I think the same may be true in harvest tools as well. Agco launched the new Command corn head (more details to come) which comes in 8- and 12-row models, and is also the first from that company to offer a chopper version. The new head will work with Gleaner, Massey Ferguson and Challenger combines and has a host of other features farmers may like. New head equals enhanced combine performance - upgrades offer potential.
Folding is good. A corollary to the "upgrade" approach is innovation designed to improve productivity. Two years ago Case IH and New Holland rolled out 12-row folding corn heads. You know the extra cost can be made up in the time and labor saved for moving a higher capacity combine down the road. Removing a corn head, and dragging it along is a time waster. Two minutes to fold up the head and move on to the next field makes more sense. John Deere announced its folding 12-row model for 2016, Case IH is adding an 8-row folder for smaller combines (all farms benefit from productivity improvements) for 2016 too.
But folding is a big deal for any machine, especially as the authorities who govern the roads you need for transport from field to field tighten up their rules. Just say "implements of husbandry" to someone from Wisconsin. Yet engineers are doing their best to narrow the travel width of the machines you buy. For example, Unverferth's new Nutrimax fertilizer machine folds darn narrow, and just watching it work was fun. You can see a video of the fold-up on our Facebook page.
As we left the show site at the close of the event, we marveled at how narrow a Kinze planter can fold. Engineers are figuring it out.
Even in soft year, you like kicking tires (tracks?) Looking at machinery sales you'd think farmers would stay home. Truth is big farm shows are about far more than just big iron. The technology and tools you need to have on your farm are key and we got a good look at those too. Jesse Vollmar, CEO and cofounder of FarmLogs tells us that 80,000 farms now use the data firm's services.
Over at Trimble, Mike Martinez, who drives marketing for the company, notes that his company saw a jump in data storage as more farmers bring their latest tools on stream. You have data, you want to not only store it but put it to work. It's an area that's getting more traction as data firms turn out new tools for you to maximize your on-farm information.
Oh, and we all like looking at new iron. Heck we even got a look at the commercial version - we've been looking at prototypes for some time - of the Kinze multi-hybrid planter. And while talking with them this week we learned that they already have the engineering in place to go beyond a two-hybrid system - in case that makes economic sense. For now, the twin hybrid planter costs just 15% more than the conventional version of the firm's electric meter setup, that’s a case of turning data into profit since seed companies that experiment with the concept have all seen yield bumps.
Yes I could go on, and I will with future reports on individual companies and their technologies online in the coming days. Check back often.
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