To get an inside look at what the farm machinery industry is working on, Farm Industry News editor Karen McMahon and I travelled to Waterloo, IA, where the annual Ag Machinery Conference (AMC) is held each year. There, we listened to about 300 agricultural engineers swap ideas on developing technologies. Here’s a look at the hot topics covered this year.
Vehicle automation. Ever since tractors replaced horses, machinery automation has transformed the business of farming, making it easier and faster to raise a crop. Don Bruns, precision ag specialist with Raven Industries, says automation took a huge leap when GPS technology took over steering and the manual process of turning on and off the flow of crop inputs. He says telemetry will be the next big step in automation, allowing farm operators and dealers to tap into the cab and remotely monitor tractors and other farm vehicles. Bruns says the technology will bring us one step closer to unmanned machines, now used in mining.
Engine emissions technology. Cummins shared its engine technology to meet EPA’s Final Tier 4 engine emission regulations, which take effect in 2014 for engines rated 174 hp and higher. Cummins is the first engine manufacturer to announce its solution, which pairs current cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) technology with an engine aftertreatment called diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to virtually eliminate soot and smog (see http://bit.ly/jkDnVd).
Fire suppression technology. Tier 4 engines, in many cases, are going to run hotter than engines made prior to 2011, when the first wave of Tier 4 emissions requirements took effect. Because of the higher engine temperatures, fire becomes more of a concern, industry experts say. So ag engineers are developing “fire suppression systems” to prevent or extinguish these flare-ups. Technologies include a fire-resistant spray and sprinkler systems installed under the hood to douse flames.
For the complete listing of what was covered at the 2011 AMC, go to www.amc-online.org.