Stealth tractors and giraffe-patterned mulchers

– posted Saturday November 16, 2013

For those of you wondering if there are any farm implement manufacturers who offer equipment painted to look like the hide of a giraffe, the answer is yes.

Friday was our last full day at AgriTechnica and, among other things, I wanted to take as much time as possible to simply reach the furthest corners of the show, to get to the places I had not yet managed to reach, and at least get some photos of what exists there.

It was during this portion of my mission that I discovered the giraffe-patterned mulcher.

It’s not clear to me why anyone would want a mulcher painted thusly, but I do know “paint” matters to some farming families…

I also stumbled upon a “stealth” tractor built by Challenger.

I know what you’re thinking: “how were you even able to find the stealth tractor, Paul?”

The answer is it was easy.

Some of the displays here at AgriTechnica are so elaborate they would rival those found on a Las Vegas-based Cirque du Soleil stage. There are lights of every imaginable colour, smoke machines and a staff of dozens who will do back-flips if you buy one.

So the stealth tractor stands out. A bit.

There are many things here that stand out – like the Dammann sprayer.

This contraption is like nothing I’ve ever seen before!

First, it’s massive. It has six huge tires and 30m booms that are capable of switching spray nozzles on the fly.

Farmers seem drawn to it like moths to a light – posing for photos in front of it or letting their kids climb up into its sophisticated cockpit.

It’s a lot like AgriTechnica itself.

– posted Friday November 15, 2013

I met some students from Southern Westphalia University yesterday – they’re out to prove that less is truly more.

The students are running what’s become a very popular demonstration at AgriTechnica. It’s a demonstration that highlights the research they’re doing regarding the relationship between tractor tire pressure and fuel economy.

The Western Producer recently featured an adjustable tire inflation system in our September 5, 2013 edition. That system was being studied by students from the University of Guelph.

The students from Southern Westphalia have a sand-filled test track set up and they drive their two-tractor test rig back and forth. The tractor equipped with the air system alternately pulls/pushes a second tractor back and forth on the sand test bed.

An electronic sign mounted atop the tractor doing the work shows in real time both the force required and the current pressure in the tires.

“If you have high pressure (in your tires) you have a lot of power but it doesn’t get to the ground,” explains Georg Ebbeler, one of the student researchers. “You use all your fuel just pulling and pushing the earth.”

Ebbeler and his fellow researchers also use a telehandler equipped with a man-platform to document various tread patterns from directly above the sand test bed.

And they were thrilled to accommodate the request of this reporter to have access to that platform to shoot some photos and video.

For the second time in as many days I had managed to negotiate access to someplace most folks don’t get to go here at AgriTechnica.

On days like this I feel like I’ve got the coolest job in the world.

I find that’s happening a lot this week.

Plenty of surprises

– posted Thursday November 14, 2013

More than half a million people call Hanover home. And almost that many again are expected to pass through the gates of AgriTechnica this week.

So you can imagine my surprise when a gentleman on the crowded train yesterday, whom I’d overheard speaking what I thought was Russian, piped up and asked, “Do you work for The Western Producer?” as he caught a glimpse of the business card I was passing to a colleague.

I know the WP has a number of international subscribers, but what are the odds this guy is one I thought to myself.

Turns out his name is Adrian and he’s originally from the Netherlands, but now farming near Picture Butte, Alta.

His land is irrigated and we talk about how he’s considering taking on the expense of trenching in the necessary piping to carry a liquid manure to his pivots where he would precisely mix it with his water to achieve optimal growth from his crops.

And we talk about social media.

Adrian doesn’t use Twitter, at least not yet, but I’m hopeful I’ve left him a convert as our train rolls into the “Messe Nord,” or Hanover Exhibition Centre, the end of the line for everyone aboard.

Twitter has been a popular app at AgriTechnica. A quick consult with my good friend Google shows nearly 2,000 tweets posted with the #AgriTechnica hashtag over the last three days alone.

Smart phones appear surgically attached to most hands, micro video recorders too, and it’s hard not to take more than a few steps without stepping into the line of someone’s shot.

So you can imagine my surprise when I stopped to photograph a very plain run-of-the-mill rototiller (to illustrate the contrast that exists among the huge variety of equipment on display) and was politely told by an Asian gentleman that no photography was permitted!

I pointed to my media accreditation and reply that I simply want to take a quick shot of the product he has publicly displayed at the largest trade show in the world.

“No, no pictures,” he told me a little more succinctly, this time taking his hands out of his pockets and positioning them so as to stop my impending lunge to photograph this mysterious stealth tiller.

It’s par for the course at a place where surprises seem to lurk around every corner.

I cant wait to see what today holds in store!

Drinking from a fire hose

– posted November 13, 2013

“It’s like trying to drink from a fire hose.”

You may have heard that phrase before, but it takes something like AgriTechnica to help you truly understand what it means.

WP managing editor Mike Raine and I started our day yesterday with a photo/video shoot of a group of John Deere techs who completely disassemble and reassemble one working John Deere tractor each day of the show!

I’d bet these guys never have to search their shop for a 12mm socket quite as long and hard as I do.

Then it was off to shoot some video of the world-famous Peterson brothers, creators of the viral video sensation, “I’m farming and I grow it.”

The latest figures indicate that particular video has been seen nearly 9 million times. Their “Farmer style” video, a parody of the famous “Gangnam style” video, has been seen more than 14 million times!

I saw a 1956 Porsche – tractor – and a 2013 Claas model that appears capable of defying gravity – it’s parked on the south wall of Hall 13 if you want to see it with your own eyes.

I promise you our editorial ethics prevent us from Photo-shopping the pic attached to this post!

Last night we attended the STEP-sponsored get-together for Canadians in attendance at AgriTechnica.

The Canadians are the 9th most represented country at AgriTechnica based on companies or organizations in attendance with 55. The U.S. is 10th with 48.

For those keeping score at home, first place goes to Italy with 368, second to the Netherlands with 117, and third to China and France, both tied with 101.

And we’re just scratching the surface of all AgriTechnica has on display.

It’s time to see what else we can find in the torrent!

Climbing the mountain

– posted Tuesday November 12, 2013

There is little that can prepare you for the sheer size of AgriTechnica.

WP managing editor Mike Raine is a veteran visitor to the show having covered it for the WP in 2005, 2007 and 2011.

He told me stories, but it really has to be seen to be believed.

I imagine this must be what it’s like for someone setting out to climb Mt. Everest. Read about it all you want, look at lots of photos, but until you are standing in the shadow of the giant itself its true size is something most people can’t comprehend.

Show organizer Malene Conlong tells me even the show’s numbers are only a useful tool when placed in a context people can understand.

“The city of Regina has a population of about 200,000 people, right?” Conlong explains. “AgriTechnica draws more than 400,000 visitors, so double that population.”

Conlong tells me this year’s show has attracted 3,900 exhibitors and about 1,500 members of the press.

It’s the Farm Progress Show on steroids.

Our first day at the show is spent just getting a lay of the land.

We find the Saskatchewan contingent of exhibitors and arrange for some interviews and make plans to shoot some video over the next few days.

And, like many in attendance, we wander about the show ground with our heads on a swivel, taking photos and simply marvelling at the many machines around us that appear to have come straight out of a Hollywood science fiction movie.

Coincidentally, the breakfast buffet at the Ibis hotel where we’re staying is also a spectacle in its own right.

And a good thing that is – we’re going to need all the energy we can get!

A day to remember

– posted Monday November 11, 2013

WP managing editor Mike Raine and I saw many beautiful sights during the course of our 8,000 kilometre journey to Hanover yesterday.

None, I would argue, more beautiful than that we were privileged to witness at London’s Heathrow airport in Terminal 1.

Mike and I were having a late breakfast when a woman’s voice with a pleasant British accent came over the airport PA system asking for our attention for a “special announcement” shortly before 11 a.m. local time.

There was going to be two minutes of silence beginning at 11 a.m. to recognize those military personnel who have served and sacrificed, in peacetime and in conflict, from World War 1 until today, said the voice.

I walked outside the restaurant onto the concourse that runs around the entire perimeter of Terminal 1, in front of her myriad of shops. I was curious to see what was going to happen.

At 11 a.m. exactly the woman on the PA system told us the two minutes of silence would begin now.

Heathrow airport is among the busiest airports in the world. 84 airlines move nearly 200,000 people in and out every day.

And at that moment the thousands of people shopping, eating and moving between flights in Terminal 1 all ground to a halt.

You could hear a pin drop.

For the next two minutes everyone I could see fell silent. Men seated at the bar at the Tin Goose pub stood, reverently.

People walking on the concourse stopped, some even bowing their heads.

I had no idea this many people were capable of being so quiet. Even the children playing in the terminal’s play structure somehow managed to remain quiet for the duration.

And in a country known for its love of tea, not a spoon clinking cup could be heard.

During a day filled with new and beautiful sights, this is one I will never forget.

AgriTechnica bound

– posted Saturday November 9, 2013

No matter what’s going on the horses have to eat.

So it wasn’t out of the ordinary at all that I got busy hauling bales earlier this morning.

What was unusual was how eager I was to complete those chores. Shortly after I was done I would be heading to the airport to begin my journey to AgriTechnica in Hanover, Germany.

AgriTechnica, I’ve learned, is the largest agricultural equipment show of its kind in the world.

Nearly 3,000 exhibitors from 50 countries gather to show off the latest in state-of-the-art ag machinery.

The show is held every two years and in 2011 more than 400,000 people passed through its gates. Nearly 100,000 of them from abroad.

This year Saskatchewan will be sending its largest contingent ever to the show – and smack-dab in the middle of it with them will be WP managing editor Mike Raine and I.

We’ll be adding to this blog daily. We’ll be shooting video, taking photos, tweeting and interviewing the myriad of producers and equipment manufacturers in attendance.

In short, we’re going to be all over this event – providing the kind of comprehensive coverage our readers have come to rely upon from us.

Is there something you’d like to see there?

Check out the AgriTechnica website and feel free to tweet us your questions and requests. We’ll do our best to oblige.

It’s going to be a very busy few days in Hanover, and the adventure is just beginning.

Now for a bite to eat before our first flight. The horses aren’t then only ones who are going to need fuel for the days ahead!

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