November 2011 Archives
With only a few hours left before the doors close for the final time on Agritechnica 2011, more than a few people were trying to squeeze in a final visit. The exhibition halls were busy, to say the least. Because it's Saturday, there were parents and kids almost everywhere.
With a journalist's press pass, though, I could avoid the crowds by coming in early and staying late each day in order to get unobstructed photographs of the machines on display. And that pass also allows access to the press centre, which offers amenities like workspace and internet access so we can do our jobs and get information out to you—no matter where you are.
The overall view of just one of the 24 display halls filled with new equipment and emerging technologies
Spending time in the press centre meant I was able to meet other writers from farm publications all across Europe. As one of only three Canadian journalists at the show (at least only three that I know of), a lot of people were eager to ask about our country and its agriculture industry. We spent a lot of time talking about the differences and similarities among farms and farming practices in various regions of the world.
To a large extent, the kind of information exchange we shared in the press room was also what the organizers of Agritechnica were trying to facilitate between equipment manufacturers and show visitors. They want this event to be the global meeting place for the exchange of information and ideas for everyone's benefit, not just a showplace for new machines. And those two purposes seem to mesh very nicely here.
In fact, it's impossible not to find yourself learning about how farming is done elsewhere simply by looking at the kinds of equipment on display and talking with the exhibitors about how and why farmers use them in various countries. Then, of coure, there are the exhibitors showing products that push the limits of current technology and give a glimpse of what the future holds. Information exchange seems to be happening here whether its planned or not.
I spoke to a few of the prairie manufacturers who are showing their equipment at the Canadian pavilions, and it's clear they're learning too. Getting feedback on their machinery from foreign farmers helps them assess not only demand for it in potential new markets, but it gives them a chance to assess other technologies, which may or may not work on implements intended for sale in Canada. That means many Canadian farmers could benefit from the dialogue at this show, even if they did come to it.
As Agritechnica has matured over the past decade, that global meeting place concept has solidified. “We could really sense an international feel to this year's Agritechnica,” said Dr. Reinhard Grandke, CEO of DLG, the show's organizer, at the closing press conference. “One of our missions is to become a platform for networking.”
I'd have to say mission accomplished.
This wraps up my second visit to an Agritechnica show—I was also here for the last one in 2009. Be sure to keep your eye on future issues of Grainews and Country Guide for detailed articles on this year's event.
If you enjoy looking at the latest and best in farm machinery and expanding your knowledge about the industry you earn your livelihood in, making the trans-Atlantic trip to see a future show could really be worth the effort. Agritechnica runs every second year, so the next one will take place in November, 2013.
Yesterday, I gave you a few stats on just how many exhibits were on site here at Agritechnica in Hanover Germany. But here's a little trivia on the facility itself—or the Hannover Messe, as it's known locally.
Hanover is in the northern region of Germany and the Messe (fair grounds) is located on the south side of the city. Covering a total of 91 acres, the Messe has 24 halls offering a total of 388,452 square metres of occupied, indoor exhibit space for this show. And almost every exhibit is under a roof, making this an all-weather event.
About half of the available floor space is occupied by the 1,361 exhibitors representing German companies. So as you'd expect, there is a lot of German being spoken on the floor. But you can expect to frequently overhear conversations in Russian, Italian and English as well. Representatives at each exhibit wear lapel pins with flags of the countries whose languages they speak. That makes it easy to know who to approach if you have a question.
Because the site is so large, you can wear down a lot of shoe leather getting from one end to the other. Fortunately, the show offers complimentary shuttle buses that run around the entire grounds, making it surprisingly easy and fast to get from one end of the Messe to the other.
To satisfy your appetite, there are countless restaurants and food stands offering everything from high-end cuisine to bratwurst and beer. And you can wander through the exhibition with your beer if you want.
Before I wrap up today's post, here's a look at New Holland's second-generation hydrogen tractor prototype, which is on display at the company's large exhibit. Aside from the updated appearance, this tractor has seen some significant redesigning under the sheet metal. With a rated output of about 140 horsepower, this one has a little more muscle than its predecessor. And it has an increased fuel-cell capacity of 340 litres, but that still only gives it two to three hours of working time. Product reps acknowledge that is an area that needs further development.
This tractor heads out for field trials
near Turin Italy next season. The farm chosen for the testing will be
producing its own hydrogen for the tractor and other energy needs.
Engineers will evaluate the tractor's performance after the season is
over and the challenge of making improvements will begin all over
Every second year, the German Agricultural Society, DLG, hosts Agritechnica, the largest farm machinery exhibition on the planet. It's held in Hanover Germany. By any standard, the show is enormous. 2,700 exhibitors from 48 countries are showing their newest and best. But unlike nearly all other venues, many manufacturers are also giving you a glimpse of what they intend to offer in future.
As a result, Agritechnica is unique in its size and scope. And in order to make the event interesting and offer more than an ample helping of eye candy, exhibitors go to unusual lengths to be creative. AGCO's Valtra stand is a prime example. The company is using the show to introduce its new N Series tractors, which offer a pretty wide variety of options. So you can order one with the unique specifications you need on your farm, really put your mark on it—so to speak.
Passers-by are invited to step up and put thier fingerprint on this new N Series Valtra tractor.
To help convey that message, show goers here can put their mark—their name and fingerprint to be exact—on the display tractor. After the doors close on this event, the tractor will get a clear-coat paint job to protect all the prints and then be auctioned off. The proceeds will go toward funding an agricultural development project in Africa.
This week I'll be posting daily updates to this blog to give you a taste of what you're missing, if you didn't make it across the Atlantic. So stay tuned for more.
Oh, and in case you're wondering. Yes, my fingerprint and the Grainews name will be encased forever on that Valtra N Series along with hundres of others.
My thumb print, like hundreds of others, will stay on this tractor. All the surfaces will eventually be protected by a clear top coat, making this a truly one-off machine.
Auf wiedersehen from Germany,
The northern lights have seen queer sights but the queerest they ever did see, was... an agriculture conference in the subarctic, maybe? At least that what I would have thought a few weeks before I was invited to Whitehorse to be a guest speaker at one.
Now, as I sit in the Vancouver airport on my way home waiting for a connecting flight (my 16th so far this year), I have to think what a great opportunity it was to attend that event.
I was asked to talk to Yukon producers about farm machinery. Hopefully, I left them with some useful information, but I'm sure I left the territory with more new knowledge than I left behind. That's because most of what I knew about the Yukon before this trip I learned from Robert Service! Considering he published those infamous Klondike poems around 1907, I was a little out of touch, to say the least.
And by the way, I should apologize to him for using one of his well-crafted lines to do something as unpoetic as open this blog post.
The Yukon conference was organized by the Agriculture Branch of the territorial government. Staff there are busily trying to boost local food production and lure more northerners into the farming profession. As I understand it, there are currently about 160 producers in the region; and despite the fact it's such a small group, they are pretty diversified, raising beef, pork and poultry, along with growing vegetables and even some short-season cereals. Most of them are market gardeners working on a relatively small scale.
Consumers in the Yukon—like everywhere else—have developed a taste for fresh, locally-grown food, and they're willing to pay for it. Most farm commodities grown there are sold right at the farm gate or at a farmers' market, and they're netting some good returns. Talking with a few people at the conference, I was able to get an idea of just how much: $4.50 a pound for a hanging side of pork—not cut and wrapped. $6.50 a pound for chicken. Even though feed costs are high, most agree those numbers pencil out pretty well.
There are some unique challenges to be overcome when farming that far north, though. One example was the beef producer who told me he preferred Texas Longhorn cattle because their horns allowed them to fight off wolves, which have cost him several animals over the years.
From a machinery standpoint, things aren't easy either. There are only a Kubota and a Bobcat dealer in the region, so the choice of new tractors is limited, if you want to buy locally. Getting implements is even harder. Most of those I spoke to told me they were using some pretty old machines, and they were eager to talk about how to get their hands on more equipment. Finding it is one thing, but getting it to the Yukon in a cost-efficient manner is the real trick.
On my 6:20 AM return flight from Whitehorse to Vancouver, I had a chance to see the sunrise on the southern horizon; as I looked back north out the window of the plane, it was still night in the Yukon. They may have to endure long hours of winter darkness; but in large part it's those endless days of summer sunshine that make growing cereal crops possible, even as far north as Dawson City.
So I have to say thanks to Brad, Matt and Tony at the Yukon Agriculture Branch for giving me the chance to go north for the first time. I think I even saw the marge of Lake LeBarge from the plane on the way in.