A few months ago AGCO released a computer generated video of what it believes its flagship Massey Ferguson combine will look like in 2030. The giant, eight-wheeled behemoth will have an articulated design and a healthy appetite for crops — if it ever sees production.
At the end of January, Swedish tractor manufacturer Valtra, which came into the AGCO fold in 2003, celebrated its 60th anniversary by showing farmers what it sees for its own distant future by releasing images of the ANTS concept tractor. To say this design is different than anything farmers have seen so far is an understatement.
The ANTS name is a bit of a play on words. All the letters in the name represent existing Valtra tractor lines and engineers see the concept as being similar to insects of the same name. Here’s how it works.
The ANTS tractor is made up of two individual and autonomous modules that can be linked together to form a 500-plus horsepower “queen” for maximum power. The operator’s cab can be attached to either of the two modules, the “soldier” or the “worker.” The cab can be located in several different locations on each module and be lowered to the ground for easy access. Inside, the driver sees a heads-up display with instrumentation projected onto the windshield.
The 250 horsepower, autonomous worker module can be sent to the field to work on its own while the operator uses the soldier portion for other tasks, essentially killing two birds with one stone — or one operator, at least.
Valtra expects to use an electric drivetrain, taking power from any of a variety of potential sources ranging from high-efficiency batteries or fuel cells to clean internal combustion engines using biofuels. The wheel tread widths are adjustable to minimize soil compaction, and the tractor will automatically set their width to match soil conditions.
Valtra has built a 1/5 scale version of the ANTS concept tractor; and it will be making the rounds to impress farmers at major farm machinery shows in 2011, including Agritechnica in Hannover, Germany.
If all that sounds a little pie in the sky to you, the company has something else new to talk about: its N101 biogas tractor, and it’s a lot closer to seeing production. Field trials are well underway on the new 101 horsepower model designed to run on 70 to 80 per cent biogas (methane). The tractor uses an existing, production SISU diesel engine. The biogas is introduced through the air intake just as with a gasoline engine, and a small amount of diesel is injected into the cylinder in the normal way to ignite the air-biogas mixture.
Both the diesel and biogas fuel system use independent, electronically- controlled fuel rails allowing the diesel-biogas ratio to vary as required. If necessary, the tractor can revert back to running on straight diesel.
The prototype currently being tested in Sweden has a pretty small biogas fuel tank. The 170 litres it holds are the equivalent of only 30 litres of diesel, giving the tractor just three hours of running time.
No word yet on when and where the tractor will be offered for sale.
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