“For me this combine is the star of the show,” said Adam Sheriff, AGCO market development manager for the new Ideal combine series. “Everything is new with this combine.”
He and I spoke as we stood near the rear of a new Massey Ferguson Ideal combine at AGCO’s display at the Agritechnica machinery show in Hannover Germany in November. But there was also a Fendt-branded version of the new Ideal combine on display just a few metres away in another part of the AGCO stand. Identical versions of the combines will be sold in both the Massey and Fendt brands in Europe, only the name badges will change.
Here in Canada the new combines will wear Massey Ferguson or Challenger insignia, becoming part of the two main product lines that form the core of AGCO’s North American presence.
The Ideal is an entirely different machine than anything the company has previously offered, and its public introduction at the world’s largest agricultural machinery exhibition marks the culmination of one of the most significant development projects AGCO has embarked on in recent years.
Engineers started with a clean sheet of paper in the development of the Ideal, according to Sheriff. And that’s what makes it such a big deal for the company. All Ideal machines will leave the factory painted in their own shade of “stealth” grey no matter what brand identification they end up wearing, which makes it unique among AGCO products, although the colour is a bit similar to that used on the company’s current Gleaner combine line.
“This combine is different,” said Sheriff. “There’s the first reason why (it gets its own colour). It makes a statement. We’ve made a massive step with this combine. It’s a sheet-up design. It’s the first time in a long time there’s been a sheet-up design from anybody.”
The smallest of the three models, the 451 horsepower Ideal 7, gets a single rotor, while the larger 538 horsepower Ideal 8 and 641 horsepower Ideal 9 will get a twin rotor threshing body.
“It’s a smaller diameter rotor than Deere’s,” he said. “By having two (rotors) you increase your threshing capacity by twice. It really does make a considerable difference. It’s 4.84 metres long. If you think about the New Holland rotor, it’s 2.8 metres long. The John Deere is around three metres. So you can image how little we really have to bash the stuff to get the grain out. It’s a very gentle thing.
“The reduced power (demand) is down to the increased space around (the rotor). You have room to separate without breaking the crop up. When you break up that crop (straw) you’re using power and using fuel. We also don’t have a discharge rotor. It’s discharged straight onto the ground. So there is no extra drive. There are only 13 belts on this combine. An equivalent Claas would have something like 26. That’s the whole planned way to bring fuel consumption down.”
Sheriff then pointed to a nearby display model of the rotor. “You see these spirals, they’re very gentle.” The company claims that rotor design is capable of handling all field conditions and all grains, only the pans need to be changed to match the crop.
That “gentle” treatment of the crop mat leaves the straw in better condition than a typical rotary for anyone that wants to bale behind the combine.
“It’s much easier on the straw,” Sheriff said. “I’ve seen it myself. I saw it in a field in dry straw in the Czech Republic and it wasn’t breaking it at all. It was leaving a lovely swath for balers.”
In fact, the entire separation system has a new design.
“It’s a new set of pans underneath the rotor,” Sheriff continued. “They’re specially shaped to put the grain in the right place all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a slope. It makes no difference. It makes a massive difference to the separation capacity. It means the output is really clean, because we can clean the grain really easily. It’s just one of 10 wows on this combine.”
The 7, 8 and 9 model number designations roughly equate to the combines’ class, but Sheriff says the components in the threshing body were engineered to demand much lower power requirements from the engine, so the numbers aren’t a fair representation of what the combines are capable of.
“The horsepower really tells you (the class), but on this combine we’re saving about 20 per cent on everything we’re doing. The rotors have a very low power requirement, the fan, the chopper, everything is developed for low power (demand). We actually have a 647 horsepower (engine) in the 9, but it’s worth a lot more. The class 9, we’ve called it a 9, but really, it’s going to do more.”
Those are peak horsepower numbers by the way. Power comes from an AGCOPower 9.8 litre 7-cylinder diesel in the 7 and 12.4 and 15.2 litre MAN 6-cylinder engines in the two bigger models.
The Ideals also get a bigger digital brain than AGCO has ever built into any of its combines, giving the company a machine that also offers a “smart,” automatic threshing control system.
“It’s got something we call Ideal Harvest,” says Sheriff. “It’s a system that receives its signals from 52 sensors around the combine. It has visualization. We can visualize what’s happening within the machine.”
The Ideal Harvest system can make automatic on-the-go adjustments during the day to maintain established harvesting parameters, taking a lot of responsibility for doing a good job away from the operator. The Ideal Harvest system won a Silver Innovations Award at Agritechnica this year.
A global design for 2019
“This was a global project, said Europe-based Adam Sheriff, AGCO market development manager for the Ideal combine line. “I was liter- ally on the phone everyday with the U.S. and South America, we’d have conference calls to decide how to specify it.”
Field testing in the development phase ahead of the official launch saw 45 prototypes sent out across various grain growing regions around the globe, along with continuous lab work over six years.
The result is a totally new combine designed for global distribution. AGCO will sell them through its three major brands (MF and Challenger in North America, MF and Fendt in Europe).
The “Ideal” name comes from a brand the company acquired in Brazil several years ago. “Many years ago Massey Ferguson bought a factory in Brazil, and they had a brand called Ideal,” explained Sheriff. Aside from that, marketers think that moniker suits the new combines in several ways.
“It’s available for order right now, but you won’t get one until 2019,” Sheriff continued. “What we’ve decided is the way to deal with it is next year go out and show people. Dealers are going to have demo models. The guys in North America will have control of their combines, so it might be a bit different — but not much different. They’ll need to do the same thing, with the same timing or maybe slightly later.”