Prairie innovation wins at AE50

The Deere 1870 ConservaPak air drill won for its productivity at the Agricultural Engineering top 50 Awards

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Measuring innovation in agriculture isn’t easy. How does one quantify good, or better?

Engineers are trained to measure and compare and often they judge between those things.

The Agricultural Engineering top 50 Awards are designed to spotlight what was especially useful in North American agriculture.

An expert panel of American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers members is created to evaluate products that have reached the market in the past year and have done so for the past 30 years.

CNH engineer Doug Otto said the 30th anniversary is a milestone for the award.

“That reflects a lot of innovation in agriculture. Think of what been accomplished with the technology that has been given this (AE50) recognition,” he said at the awards ceremony in Louisville, Kentucky, earlier this month.

In some cases, AE50 award winning products have gone on to be integrated into later technologies and won again, in some cases several times, as new farming tools are created from old ones.

“Many of the winners were patented and trademarked and still successful today,” said the New Holland engineer.

Back in 1984 Agricultural Engineering magazine produced a special issue on technology, highlighting 25 new techniques, inventions and innovations. That was the birth of the AE50 Award that is now a product of that evolved magazine, Resource, operated by ASABE.

The goal set out in 1986, when the award began, was straightforward.

“Acceptance in the marketplace is the highest accolade any new agricultural product can receive. But for innovative developments in the last 12 months, a singular honour is to be named one of the year’s Agricultural Engineering 50 outstanding innovations,” read its inaugural charge.

This year’s top 50 products included many that prairie producers will be interested in.

A prairie innovation from early days of reduced tillage won an AE50 for John Deere this year. The Deere 1870 Conserva Pak air drill, in its 76 foot-wide configuration, won for its productivity, with an increase in acres per hour, its TruSet depth control that manages the individual-run openers with dual-acting cylinders and a frame that was beefed up to take the heavy draw of an increased footprint and the weight of ever-larger air seeder carts.

That innovation nearly predates the AE50 awards. It was invented by Jim Halford in 1983 and reached market in 1989 and was one of the first no-till products. That innovation is seen today in both Seed Hawk and Seed Master products, both having won AE50 awards in the past.

Feeding a drill that large takes a lot of air flow and Deere won another award for its AirPower 2 fan system that bolts on to its 1910 Commodity Cart — also a previous winner.

Rather than a single fan, the AirPower 2 has two, large diameter, cast aluminum units driven by specialized hydraulic motors created for fan applications.

Air is pushed through a moulded plenum that evens out the flow before sending it into newly designed, three inch, stainless steel primaries and downstream manifolds that mount to existing meters. New controls on the 1910 cart allow producers to balance the tank pressure and flow, depending on the product and the conditions. New in-cab tank-pressure monitoring are part of the package.

Deere’s 9RX articulated tractor and the company’s Active Terrain adjustment for its S Series combines, both of which were covered in The Western Producer last year won also this year.

The company won 12 awards in all this year.

Other highlights included New Holland’s Dual Stream combine header attachment for the 760CG Varifeed grain header. It is a secondary cutter bar that allows producers to harvest higher up on the crop, putting less material other than grain through their machines, while cutting stubble to the desired length behind the table.

The unit also has a roller harrow that works the loose stalk material into the stubble. It is available for 25 to 41 foot units.

The company also won for its Flexicoil P Series air seeder carts with their primary meter run controls, each operated by a 24v motor and sectional control for up to 12 sections. The meters and air controls allow the carts to maintain even flow across large drills and eliminate it for overlaps.

The Flexicoil and sister Case International units were featured last season in The Western Producer.

IntelliCruise for New Holland’s BigBaler 300 is a feed control system that matches tractor speed to large square balers ingestion of hay automatically. The system allows the tractor to optimize the baler’s capacity to the tractor’s, gearing up and throttling back to conserve fuel and reducing operator’s fatigue.

A producer could pair that baler to another award winner, the T7 New Holland tractors. The medium framed tractor’s 6.7 litre engine peaks at 315 horsepower uses the company’s Auto Command transmission with infinite speed adjustment, four speed rear p.t.o. and two speed front allow the engine to run its most efficient while the p.t.o. maintains ideal rates of its own.

Winnipeg’s MacDon won for a collaboration with Germany’s Krone. The companies developed a new pull-type disc mower for forage production. In 30 seconds the units move from operating to transport, fully controlled from the tractor’s cab. The MacDon version is known as the R1, while Krone will market it as a TC 400 or 500. Transport wheels stow behind the mower and deploy automatically. These also lift the mower up, creating large ground clearance for moving between fields. The narrow transport of the design allows a 13 or 16 foot unit to fold down to nine, creating improved movement through pasture gates and greater safety on narrow roads.

A large number of innovations relevant to prairie producers made the ASABE grade this season, so look for additional Western Producer coverage of the AE50 awards for products from CaseIH, Agco and Claas, as well several smaller companies over the coming weeks.

For a complete list of winners visit this story on


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