German machinery giant Claas is the latest big manufacturer to nail its colours firmly to the high-technology mast, with new additions to its range of GPS, telematics and crop recognition software.
The reason is simple. Claas, like other machinery makers, says that most types of machine have pretty much reached their maximum physical size, given the constraints of road travel and field size. But there is still scope, it says, both to push up output and to make the operator’s life easier.
“We have to find ways of getting more output without making the machines any bigger,” says Claas UK’s general manager Trevor Tyrell.
And the firm’s GPS technology specialist Edward Miller, says: “Machines need to be easier to operate. The interface between operator and machine has to be nice to use.”
While Claas’s high-tech steering systems dates back 30 years to its feeler-bar-based Auto Pilot system for maize harvesting, this is first time that it has gathered all the different technologies into one cohesive range.
Called EASY (Efficient Agriculture Systems), they range from the Cemos combine assistance system – which gives on-the-go advice on machine settings to improve performance – to the latest high-tech telematics.
There are several new additions and improvements, too.
Until now, only Lexion and Tucano 480 combines could run Claas telematics systems. These systems use sensors on everything from fuel level to grain loss to record what’s happening and send the information back to a computer screen via the GPRS mobile phone network.
A total of 170 UK farmers and contractors now use the system, almost a third of all users in the world.
From next year it will be available on smaller Tucano combines, Jaguar foragers and Xerion and Axion tractors. New features will include the ability to view field maps showing things like engine load, fuel consumption and chop length.
Claas now offers three different terminals for farmers and contractors using GPS steering. These start with the Copilot TS – which is now compatible with Agro-Map mapping software – go through to the updated, faster-acting GPS Pilot S3, and are topped off by the new 6.4in Cebis Mobile multifunction terminal for controlling GPS steering and operating Isobus-compatible machines.
Claas also says that its fixed-mast RTK system (first announced in the spring) now has 11 masts up and running, with coverage in East Anglia, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. Some 100 farmers and contractors are using it, says Mr Miller, and 18 masts will be up by the end of the year.
Prototypes of this camera-based guidance system have been seen at shows for a year or two, but it’s only now being formally launched. A 3D digital camera scans the front of the tractor and can follow plant rows, swaths, tramlines and ridges, automatically steering the tractor with +/- 2-3cm accuracy.
Though you’d still need a GPS system to get the initial straight A-B line, it can work at much slower speeds than GPS systems so is ideal for many vegetable and rootcrop operations.