As an avowed farm show junky, which helps when you have this job, traveling to Europe to see new equipment and technology is fascinating. Of course, I got the pleasure of hitting all four major fall farm shows, including two that Penton Agriculture owns. And to end the year, I'm writing this from my hotel room in Hannover, Germany.
Yes, it's that time again. Agritechnica touted as the world's largest farm and agriculture technology show, is under way. The event, which only happens every other year, fills multiple giant buildings in the Hannover Messe convention grounds. And while it's quick and easy to draw comparisons to this event versus U.S. farm shows, I think the bigger deal is to simply keep in mind that different is good.
I joked earlier this year about walking 10,000 steps a day at the Farm Progress Show. Well thanks to different press conferences in different parts of the Hannover show site, I'm nearing 20,000 steps a day this week after just two days.
This show does offer a look at the range of equipment used in agriculture in this part of the world. Long-time agriculture support has farmers here fully supported in keeping newer equipment at work on the farm. And the diversity of agriculture in this region, which is about the size of the United States but includes more than 30 countries (for the European Union alone) brings with it a wide-ranging chance to see engineering ingenuity at its best.
But why would it be on the bucket list? Well for a show junky you might understand. But I think anyone interested in looking at how other people farm should consider making the trip. First, if you've never been to Europe that's worth the time and you can plan other tours and make Agritechnica just part of the stop. And second, you get to see a lot of cool stuff.
Or focus on Agritechnica and plan to take a few days wandering the halls to look at how electronic displays are changing, how sensor technology is getting more advanced or even how different innovators are looking at tools to put drones to work in new ways. You'll also see a different kind of show atmosphere - the show is mostly indoors - and exhibitors often go all out for wide-ranging displays to show off their wares - including the use of virtual reality (read on).
And of course there is the concept of "digital farming" which offers a lot of excitement, and fills up two buildings alone, not counting what specific major companies from Fendt to Claas to John Deere are doing. Of course digital farming will offer key benefits for agriculture provided regulators and farmers can get their heads around a more effective way to manage data ownership issues, which is a hot topic here.
At the kick-off celebration ahead of the show's official opening on Tuesday (the event has two Preview Days before going 'live' today - Nov. 10) a range of speakers including an agriculture minister, the president of DLG the owners of the show and the head of VDMA, a major equipment trade group (like the Association of Equipment Manufacturers in the United States) got into a discussion regarding data and data ownership.
Their chief comment "data belongs to the farmer and if the farmer wants that data deleted off a system that should happen." In the United States we're having the data conversation even as the technology races forward and one exhibitor commented that the United States and Australia were "wide open" when it came to data practices.
In Germany, for example, it's illegal for a company to aggregate farmer data to create useful benchmarking tools - a practice that's already common for a range of suppliers in the U.S. Remember, in Europe, you can have Google erase your information from its system - so data privacy is a HOT topic here too, but with a different legal focus.
It's these kinds of things you learn as you walk the show floor and talk with exhibitors. The different cultures at work, make it interesting when you see halls devoted to agriculture innovation and look at all the data companies trying to get a foothold in the region.
From my first two days at the event here are three takeaways:
Sensors are amazing. Today's equipment has so many sensors at work, that engineers are able to do some dramatic things with those tools from managing bale density to increasing operating efficiency for tractor-pulled machines.
. New Holland has a unique demo that actually allows you to "drive" a combine or a new T7 HD tractor on the show floor (no you don't get to touch a steering wheel - though from this image you think you could) which provides an efficient way to check the visibility from the cabs of new equipment. See me in those VR glasses below, and enjoy.
Europeans love to get work done in one pass. Walk the floor and the number of fertilizer, tillage, planting "trains" that grace those buildings devoted to seeding is kind of amazing. We showed the Vaderstad Tempo L in the Monday gallery from the show. That's just one example, but shows that farmers like to drive on that ground as little as possible to get work done (of course they still also like full tillage too)
Check back this week as I continue to blog from Agritechnica. There's plenty to see at the show, and I recommend you consider making plans to attend, at least once.