Innovative equipment cultivating regenerative and precision agriculture
The exploration of innovations advanced by Duluth, Georgia-based AGCO speaks volumes about the potential future of technology for cultivating regenerative and precision agriculture.
AGCO made acquisitions to build a portfolio that includes Precision Planting from Monsanto (now Bayer) as well as Massey-Ferguson, Fendt, Challenger and Valtra. With new CEO Eric Hansotia, AGCO is sowing the seeds for a global renewal of its mission, writes Heather Clancy for Green Biz. This mission includes electrified agricultural machinery, autonomous field robots and smart tractor retrofits.
“It’s always been about economic return to the farmer; now we’re trying to build sustainability into that,” Louisa Parker-Smith, AGCO’s new (and first) director of global sustainability, told Clancy in a interview.
Parker-Smith said enabling sustainable agricultural production is a fundamental tenet of future product design. Moving away from heavier equipment, for example, could help reduce soil compaction, allowing fields to absorb and sequester more carbon dioxide. And, through its Precision Planting division, AGCO is developing more devices that help farmers track measurements of organic matter or water, among other data.
One example is Xaver, a robotic approach to seed planting being developed and tested as part of the company’s Future Farm initiative. The robots can be orchestrated via satellite positioning and a cloud-based software application.
AGCO is also electrifying some of its larger tractors, including several from the Fendt division.
Parker-Smith’s new role is to help the entire company, from designers to retailers, rise to the occasion. “My goal is really to harness the energy of the whole organization. There’s a huge amount going on,” she said. “We don’t just want to get caught up in the risk management aspects. We really look at value creation from the customer’s perspective.”
AGCO is of course not the only agricultural equipment supplier to envision a hybrid and electric future in agriculture. UK startup Small Robot Company is developing farm robots that can weed, plant and nurture crops; and Japanese company Kubota has an autonomous electric tractor with four tracks instead of wheels that can traverse all kinds of terrain. Monarch Tractor features an all-electric, “driver-optional” smart tractor. John Deere also has an autonomous electric tractor.
It takes a long time to get farm equipment out to pasture, so convincing farmers to invest in these emerging technologies – whatever potential benefits they might have for regenerative agriculture – is certainly a long-term proposition. term, wrote Clancy. But given how important food companies are to convincing their supply chains to invest in regenerative agriculture, it would be a mistake to overlook the role that electric and autonomous vehicles can play in the field.