Marketing Manager, New Holland
Tractor technology has come a long way over the last 100 years. Farmers want to ensure that the hours they spend on the land are as efficient as possible, that their tractors are comfortable and, where necessary, utilise the latest technology.
The market for agricultural machinery is constantly evolving, as the needs of society and British farmers change.
When it comes to tractors, manufacturers are under pressure to innovate and find solutions to improve comfort, but at the same time, efficiency, health and safety and sustainability.
Farmers want to ensure that the hours they spend on the land are as efficient as possible, that their tractors are comfortable and, where necessary, utilise the latest technology.
Improvements to tractor design
Improving comfort has been a priority for the industry for years, and tractors have moved on from minimal protection from the elements, to providing climate-controlled and suspended operator environments. “There are several times during the year when a farmer will spend more time on their tractor than they will at home,” says New Holland Marketing Manager, UK and Republic of Ireland, Mark Crosby.
Product innovation over the decades has also reduced noise and vibration levels and improved safety. For example, in 2018 new European rules called the Tractor Mother Regulations were introduced covering important areas such as braking and lighting requirements.
This technology means a novice can sit in the seat and still achieve the best results if the right parameters are set correctly.
New technological features
There have also been technological advances in how tractors and other machines are powered. Incredibly, many models now include a state-of-the-art dashboard providing data analytics, GPS mapping and remote sensing.
“We have seen increasing use of electronics on our tractors since the 1980s but we are entering a new generation of innovation, to include autonomy and connectivity, to help farmers do their job more efficiently and to reduce fatigue,” says Crosby.
Some companies are prioritising alternative fuel technology and focussing on sustainability. New Holland, for example, has a clean energy strategy and its first Methane Power tractor prototype was unveiled in 2013.
Their methane-powered Concept tractor has a six-cylinder NEF methane engine, which delivers the same power and torque as a standard diesel version. Running costs are reduced by around one third and noise levels are cut in half. The methane-powered version also lowers CO2 emissions by 10% and reduces overall emissions by about 80% compared to a diesel tractor.
Methane is no longer a waste product
“This is a very exciting concept because many of our customers have a supply of methane which is usually deemed to be a waste product, but now they can fuel their tractor,” says Crosby. “We are currently in part-production and running pilots. We plan to go live officially in 2020 with a select number of units, and start mass production, in 2021.”
The new generation of farmers
New Holland’s investment in new technology also includes an automation system which improves harvesting in difficult conditions. “This technology means a novice can sit in the seat and still achieve the best results if the right parameters are set correctly.”
“The new generation of farmers and farming advisers is driving the changes we are seeing around innovation and sustainability,” says Crosby. “The challenge is to keep finding the solutions the industry needs.”