Right from its formation in the mid 1980s, AGCO’s strategy to add new products and technology to its line was to purchase additional companies. In the process, it wrote a lot of cheques to get new engineering. Today, however, under a new CEO and with its own R and D team, AGCO has changed gears. “We’ve moved from a company that acquires technology to a company that develops it,” says Steve Koep, vice president of sales for North America.
The company now boasts 11 regional product development plants around the world. “The operative word there is plants (plural),” adds Garry Ball, senior vice president of engineering worldwide. Staff at each facility is able to focus on the needs of producers in that part of the world and come up with independent solutions to meet local needs.
“This year we’ll spend in excess of 225 to 240 million dollars [for R and D], depending on the exchange rate,” says Ball. That is in sharp contrast to the company’s practices a decade ago. “Prior to 2004, it was rare event for us to apply for a patent,” Ball continues. “We’ve now been growing the rate at which we file for patents by over 25 per cent per year.”
On wednesday, AGCO held a North American media event in which it was able to show home-grown innovation on new machinery offerings, which helped emphasize the change in direction taken by the company. The “AGCO Open”, as it was dubbed by management, was held in the River Centre convention hall in St. Paul, Minnesota. Farm journalists from across Canada and the U.S. were given an exclusive look at the machines and a guided tour around the new technology and design built into them.
Included among the new equipment on display was a 50-foot model of a Sunflower 1500 Series tandem disc. According to Ricky Dugan, product specialist for tillage and seeding equipment, the model 1550 is designed to meet the needs of no-till producers who occasionally need to bury trash build ups yet leave a smooth surface without the typical ridges caused by other disc designs. This eliminates the need to make another pass over the field to level out a seedbed.
There was a look at the high-horsepower tractors equipped with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology to meet the next level of emissions standards, along with a new TerraGator applicator and RoGator high-clearance sprayer.
With five models in the 2011 RoGator lineup, these machines offer tank sizes ranging from 900 to 1,300 gallons. All have stainless steel product tanks and a host of other new features including four-wheel steering and a redesigned hydraulic motor and gear reduction hub assembly. It’s no longer necessary to replace the motor and hub together if one fails. Engineers separated them to reduce repair costs. All five models have seven speed ranges with hydrostatic speed adjustment in each. That makes it easier for an operator to fine tune field speeds to the conditions.
But arguably the most anticipated machine introduction was the S7 Gleaner. AGCO has used social media, YouTube in particular, to “leak” information and pictures of prototypes to producers in advance of its official public debut, which will be at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, IA, at the end of August. Unfortunately, everyone had to agree not to spill the beans on what innovations are under the sheet metal on this combine until it makes that first public appearance. If you can’t make it to the show, check back here near the end of August. I’ll give you the lowdown on it.
While I don’t have a picture of the S7 because of the temporary news black out, here’s a combine picture that you have to see. Remember when I said AGCO now has 11 engineering centres around the world? Well, it has a combine development centre in Breganze Italy, which is just outside Venice. During a recent harvesting conference in Venice, AGCO loaded this MF hybrid model on a barge and floated it down the Grand Canal to make a splash–but, hopefully not literally. It also floated a Fendt combine on a second barge.
Too bad they didn’t put on a similar spectacle with the S7 Gleaner for us farm writers in St. Paul. They could have floated one by the River Centre convention hall.
Keep an eye on future issues of Grainews and this blog for more details and pictures of AGCO’s new machines.