Turning Data into Usable Insights for Improved Productivity will be the Game Changer

Matt Rushing AGCO Vice President, Global ATS Product Line
Matt Rushing AGCO Vice President, Global ATS Product Line

Responses from multiple AGCO Corp. representatives

 

Technologies of the Future: Hybrids, Electrification and Smart Systems

Have there been any recent advancements in hybrid technology which will help, or have the potential to, further increase their prevalence in the heavy-duty equipment industry?

Dr. Ravi Godbole AGCO Global Lead, Research & Advance Engineering

There are more component makers and designs are more compact and robust.  The costs are starting to come down thanks to its prevalence in automotive industry. The off-road industry is slowly developing consensus around voltage levels (e.g. 700V) and common standards around safety and connections. See also Porsche mission E and Audi concepts now introducing 700V systems.

In regards to hybrids, what technological limitations currently exist that are impeding the ability to harness the full potential of hybrid power?

Godbole: The cost of the total package translating to a clear value proposition for a customer, beyond the “wow-factor”, is limiting its prevalence. The battery costs must also come down, which we expect to occur due to the automotive industry’s focus in this area.

What progress is being made by AGCO and/or the industry in regards to developing fully optimized systems as opposed to individual components [e.g. overall powertrain optimization versus optimizing the drivetrain and engine separately]?

Godbole: AGCO has demonstrated the “e-RoGator” and “X concept” tractor with “e-rake” recently. Electrification of machines by itself has some value, such as a 10-15% fuel savings. But going beyond that, we are working on improving the total machinery system (e.g. hybrid tractor, plus implement) that brings more value in terms of additional yield and also helps reduce other input and maintenance costs. This journey is very similar to factory automation during the last 100 years (from steam and centralized mechanical power to decentralized, intelligent individual electric drives/robots).

What role is electrification and smart systems playing within AGCO’s product designs?

Godbole: For AGCO, designs with electrification components, the key focus going forward is improving controllability and the quality of work by implements, planters and crop care equipment. The goal is to create solutions where customer sees value in improving their yields and bottom line. This is the essence of precision planting and that is where we will continue our focus.

What’s next on the technology horizon? Are there emerging technologies which will affect your products or the industry as a whole? How will hybridization, electrification and smart systems continue to progress within the next year and on into the future?

Matt Rushing AGCO Vice President, Global ATS Product Line

We are looking forward to new coming developments with sensors and UAV technology, realizing we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what sensors and aerial imagery can capture about machines and their efficiency, as well as more about what’s going on in the field. The degree of electrification, smart sensors and autonomous machinery will only increase in coming years. Smart systems will help producers make decisions on the go and increase the overall efficiency and profitability of their operation.

Collecting the data is only half the story. The game-changer is in analyzing it and turning it into insights that you can use to make decisions that will improve productivity. Enabling connectivity and analytics through strategic partnerships is where OEMs, like AGCO, can add value while supporting growers’ choices of agricultural service providers.

 

The Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0): Data, Connectivity and Automation

What does “Industrial Revolution 4.0” mean to AGCO?

Rushing: Agriculture 4.0 is the industry answering the question of how information technology and data science can evolve farming practices for greater and greater efficiency, sustainability and productivity. AGCO is very focused on being a leader of Agriculture 4.0, which will mean smart and connected machinery systems and always looking for new ways to improve the farm operation. We continuously pursue R&D projects in these areas and bring the smartest machines to market with each production cycle.

Several of AGCO’s R&D projects in recent years demonstrate some ways in which autonomy and robotics can help farmers address productivity and efficiency challenges and opportunities, specifically our Fendt GuideConnect, Valtra ANTS and, more recently, AGCO’s Fendt MARS project. The MARS concept is focused on eliminating not only the cost and inefficiencies of an operator, but also the cost of the tractor and the planter tool bar as well, which can eliminate cost, increase labor efficiency, reduce soil compaction and allow for much more accurate placement of inputs. Within the next few years, AGCO will be introducing a generous number of new technologies and services (that also includes autonomous solutions) that as a package, will provide broad cost reductions and yield improvements for the farmer that go well beyond the simply removing the operator.

What role do any of the following branches of IR4.0 play within AGCO and/or its product designs?

  • Big Data (Smart Data) – acquisition, management, extrapolation and presentation
  • GPS, Telematics and Connectivity
  • Automated Systems and Vehicles
  • Are there other branches or areas of focus?

Eric Hansotia, Senior Vice President, Global Harvesting, Crop Care, Advanced Technology Solutions and Dealer Technical Support

Big data in agriculture is best understood as the opportunity to unlock potential, both in the machine and in the field. It’s not enough to simply create and capture the data, harnessing the power of the data is the name of the game. GPS, telemetry, automation and precise application technologies are the tools that work in concert to unlock this potential in the field. Smart machines equipped with these technologies collect the data and make it accessible to growers and ag service providers. Data visualization tools enable analysis and deliver actionable insights, which can then be utilized to more accurately control the factors impacting crop germination, growth and yield.

We must keep in mind that while Big Data is a massive quantity of information growers can gather and use to make better decisions, you also need the right machines to actually engage the ground, with the aid of the other technologies, to really see the benefits of the data.

A key guiding principle for AGCO, driving how we approach Big Data and these technologies, is our Fuse strategy, which is an open approach to precision agriculture. And by Open, we mean facilitating connections between AGCO equipment and our customers’ preferred agricultural service providers, regardless of OEM. Other OEMS in the industry have taken a less inclusive approach, requiring growers who use their machines to then also use the OEM’s proprietary farm management software. By contrast, AGCO offers connections to a constantly growing list of farm management software and tools. AGCO’s ultimate goal is to help our customers improve productivity by affording them the flexibility to manage their operations the way they see fit. This means the grower isn’t locked into a single solution – they can use the tools that best suit their needs.

Is there a particular route or focus the company is taking amidst the IR4.0 set of opportunities?

Hansotia: AGCO’s path has always been toward making farmers more efficient—first with always improving machinery, next with industry-leading technologies, and now with services. We intend to stay on that path in the context of IR4.0. As a manufacturer of world-class, long-standing equipment brands we will always be focused on improving machine efficiency today’s farmers need to feed the world. Over the last 5 years, we’ve also elevated our focus on delivering industry-leading technology tools, and now services, that will transform our customers’ practices into lean, efficient and sustainable operations. AGCO’s Fuse Connected Services are designed to help growers identify efficiencies and optimization opportunities while supporting their connections with other trusted service providers like crop consultants and agronomists. We believe this new level of grower support will unlock potential across their operation through streamlined logistics, data management, and waste reduction.

A key opportunity and differentiator for AGCO in this new era has been our commitment to customer data privacy. Understandably, there is a lot of sensitivity around farm data – where it goes, who can see it, and how to manage it. AGCO is unique in the industry in that we provide two different data pipes – one for machine data such as engine RPM and fuel consumption, and the other for more sensitive agronomic data. We’ve found that our customers highly value being able to better control what happens to their farm data in this way.

What is the opportunity potential, and what benefits are you already seeing?

Hansotia: The opportunity and demand is for farmers to double productivity over the next 20 years.  Technologies, like guidance and rate and section control, get us going in that direction and Fuse Connected Services will ensure we deliver on our Fuse promise.  As connectivity, computing and data science improve, we will see consistent improvement in what our core technologies and services deliver.  While every operation is different with varying crops, size of operation, equipment and climate conditions, Fuse Connected Services is showing efficiency benefits in the double digits in areas ranging from improved fuel consumption, uptime optimizations and fleet maintenance efficiencies. Our pilot programs in North and South America are proving what smart, connected machines can do.

How do you foresee the IR4.0 affecting the industry as a whole? Are there any new or improved opportunities it will enable?

Hansotia: One exciting opportunity we see on the horizon as more farms adopt more data- and insight-centric practices, and as growers reap the benefits of these new tools and agronomic methods, is that data quality itself will start to improve. The industry’s move toward data format standardization also serves to improve data quality. More data is good, but better data is great; it will increase the value of farm equipment and tools, and deliver an even better ROI for the farmer, while also serving the broader purpose of increasing efficiency and productivity.

 

The [Industrial] Internet of Things (IIoT)

How is AGCO approaching the IIoT and, implementing it into the company’s day-to-day operations?

Peggy Gulick, AGCO Director Business Process Improvement (Jackson Operations)

From a manufacturing standpoint, AGCO is leading the way in use of IoT in our factories. We were recently recognized with a 2016 Manufacturing Leadership Award in the Internet of Things category for our use of Google Glass on the production floor.

At the Jackson Operations in Jackson, MN, they focus on the collaboration between humans, machines and products.  The use of smart watches, ring scanners, tablets, Google Glass and smart andons allows the plant to focus on quality, safety, productivity, and in the end, happy customers.

What opportunities are you seeing and challenges are you facing in regards to the IIoT?

Rushing: The IoF (Internet of Farming) is a great way to understand what telematics in agriculture can do to improve a farm operation, and we’re doing it today. Smart, connected machines capture detailed information about every field operation, from field prep to harvest, and send the data to the farm’s back office software, agronomist or other trusted service providers where analysis is performed and insights are derived. Decisions are made based on the insights. Logistics improvements, operator training opportunities and machine health practices are implemented, and those same smart machines then execute precise field operations resulting in improved productivity across the farm.

Certainly adoption is a key challenge as with any new technology, the few early adopters demonstrate the value and as the benefits become more widely known, we expect to see broader adoption.

So, as these new technologies demonstrate their effectiveness in both big and small operations, we expect to see more and more farms adopt them. We’re already seeing a proliferation of manufacturers and technology providers. It’s not always clear for farmers what technologies they need, or how best to harness the power of their data. This can lead to confusion and concern in terms of how their data is handled and who can see it. An opportunity now is to promote transparency within the precision agriculture industry. AGCO is a leader of the growing effort among key industry players to help farmers understand their data and how to manage it. In the years to come we also expect some of the providers to consolidate and merge, simplifying the landscape and farmers’ decisions about which providers to use for which technology.

The availability of broadband is increasing, but in some parts of the world this can be a barrier too.

Is the general Internet of Things (IoT) playing a role in your company’s product designs? If so, how? And if not, do you anticipate it will at some point in the future?

Rushing: Absolutely – AGCO’s Fuse strategy is global initiative to produce equipment and tools that will help growers increase their production of food, fuel and fiber globally. Fuse helps drive AGCO’s product development across our platforms (tractors, harvesting and crop care equipment) and heavily influences investment in engineering and IT. We expect this investment and focus on farm optimization to continue to grow.

What potential benefits or opportunities are available by implementing IoT technologies within your products?

Rushing: With our telemetry product, AgCommand, enabling Fuse Connected Services, growers can realize a wide range of benefits that all boil down to time and cost savings, and increased yield. These are derived through optimizing machine health and performance, improved machine resale value, input cost reduction, streamlined logistics, reduced waste, reduced downtime and maximized uptime.   On AGCO’s side, being able to understand with more accuracy how the machines are being used in the field, and understanding where machine challenges are occurring helps us to build better machines.

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