Agritechnica 2017 kicks off on Sunday in Hanover, Germany.
We get many cool opportunities to go places and meet interesting people in this role reporting on agriculture, but the chance to travel to Europe for the first time to attend what’s usually described as the world’s largest ag equipment show definitely qualifies as checking off a box on my bucket list.
So, sitting here in the Calgary airport waiting with Shaun (Haney) and Jason (Stroeve) for our flight to Frankfurt, I’m trying to anticipate what we’re going to see in the 27(?) halls that make up Agritechnica.
— RealAgriculture (@realagriculture) November 10, 2017
A lot of the shiny innovations on display in Hanover probably won’t be immediately relevant for farmers here in Canada. Europe is different in many ways, but the time it takes technology to jump from a farm on one side of the world to the other has never been shorter.
So here are some themes I’m expecting or will be keeping an eye out for — trends that could impact how we farm in North America.
More automation and robotics
Many, if not all, of the companies that are investing in automation and robotics will be at the show, including Canada’s DOT Technology Corp. There were some really interesting robot concepts on display at Agritechnica in 2015, and I expect we’ll see many more this year, as labour shortages and other factors driving automation have only grown. And the price of the technology has dropped. So whether it’s for spraying or more monotonous up-and-down-the-field tasks, there will likely be some cool ideas on display.
We’ve started seeing this at North American farm shows in the last while. There’s been a slowdown in the number of widest/biggest/longest pieces of equipment unveiled. Manufacturers are rather focusing on more intelligent/efficient/flexible/cost effective designs. Size isn’t as important as smarts. Along with this, many of the new products hitting the market aren’t even made with steel or iron. They’re software and sensors.
Farming in Germany, again, is very different, with smaller farm sizes and more emphasis on narrow transport widths, but Agritechnica also attracts many from the massive farms of eastern Europe. I’m curious whether we’ll see any “biggest ever” new product releases.
Different energy sources
John Deere, Fendt and others have publicly unveiled tractors that run on electric batteries in the last year. New Holland will have the methane/propane-powered prototype that it debuted at the U.S. Farm Progress Show in August at Agritechnica. With European countries pushing ‘green’ energy, manufacturers are facing looming deadlines to build tractors that meet strict emissions rules. Different companies seem to have different ideas about what will create horsepower in the future. At the same time, there will likely be companies represented here that make and sell tractors in markets that don’t have emissions standards.
On a related note, we’re starting to see more companies using electric motors instead of hydraulics. How much of this will see in the next week?
Farming with fewer weed and pest control options
As we’re seeing with tbe politics surrounding glyphosate and neonicotinoids, European farmers are potentially being forced to change tools for weed and pest control. They’re looking at a future where some of the technology we use in North American won’t be an option. We might not have the same political and anti-science environment (yet), but we do have serious herbicide resistance issues. I’m curious what kind of innovation is happening in response. Will we see more mechanical weed control tools, such as the Bosch robot that was on display in 2015? More “organic” tools aimed at reducing weed competition?
Well, time to board the plane. Feel free to comment below or send me a tweet (@realag_kelvin) if there’s something cool that should be on our radar. Looking forward to sharing what we see and experience in Germany!
RealAgriculture’s coverage of Agritechnica 2017 is brought to you by Dow AgroSciences.