Caterpillar pioneered tracked farm implements with its Challenger tractor in 1989; the industry was never the same after that
Caterpillar started selling a tracked offering of its Challenger tractor in 1987, and this first tracked tractor on the market proved to be a game changer.
Never before were producers able to get that much power to the ground and maintain traction, forcing other tractor manufacturers to the drawing table to draft a response to Challenger’s innovation.
Agco bought Challenger from Caterpillar in 2001, and Ash Alt from Agco said the tracked system continues to help the company be an industry leader because of how the tracks minimize compaction and maximize traction and power to the ground.
“The benefit to the grower is that they are able to pull larger machinery across the field at faster speeds or deeper depths and minimize their input costs, so obviously time and labour is an input cost, the machine itself and fuel,” he said.
“Our machines are actually able to perform and do more work than the competition and be more efficient.”
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Caterpillar is well known for producing heavy-duty industrial machinery, and the Agco Challenger remains true to its roots.
“Our frame is the biggest heaviest frame in the industry,” Alt said.
“What that means is that its structural strength is where it needs to be.”
He said the Challenger frame is not only strong but also balanced so that adding additional ballast weight is unnecessary.
“With a wheel tractor, the weight is split front to rear, and as you engage a tool in the ground, be it a ripper or disk or whatever it might be, that weight shifts as the load pulls the machine backwards,” he said.
“So our machine has a better weight split out of the factory to be more efficient.”
Agco also offers a high horsepower four-wheel drive tractor, the 900, which Alt claims has the heaviest frame, biggest drive line and biggest bar axles in the industry.
“So if you’re thinking about pulling in Canada those 80 or 100 foot air seeders, and large tillage tools that are 60 or 80 feet wide as well, you want to make sure your tractor is robust enough to handle those demands,” Alt said.
When it comes to high horsepower tractors, it’s not just the horsepower that gets the job done. It’s also the engine’s torque that gets operators through the tough spots.
“It’s what pulls up that hill or through that hard spot, and you don’t have to sacrifice a ground speed change,” he said.
Having a robust torque rise allows producers to run the Challenger tractors at a lower r.p.m., which helps reduce fuel consumption.
“What the Agco power engine is able to do is because our torque rise and our torque curve is so good, we can actually run our engine at a lower r.p.m., let’s say on average between 1,400 and 1,500 r.p.m., and still do a great job,” Alt said.
He said he believes that tractors will continue to get bigger and more powerful as small farms disappear and larger operators absorb that ground.
“The need for efficiency, speed and size, I think, are going to keep increasing,” he said. “The demand for larger tillage tools and air seeders are going to keep increasing.”