The farm equipment business has been soft for some time. The only bright spot has been under-40 hp tractor sales, which have strengthened most months since the Great Recession ended. But for bigger equipment, the market has not been as kind. Yet May sales may be showing some turnaround.
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, a trade group that has tracked ag equipment sales for decades, shows that sales of some key product segments turned positive last month. Sure, the under-40 hp crowd continues to grow at a fast rate. In May, compared to May 2017, sales are up 20.1% and up 6.3% for the year so far when compared to the same period last year.
The good news came in two other tractor segments - the 40 to 100 hp group and the over-100 hp group. For the 40 to 100 class of tractors, sales rose 6.9% for May compared to May 2017; and up 3.4% for the year so far compared to 2017.
For the over 100-hp set, sales were up 20.3% for May (you read that right). That was a strong month for the tractor segment, and boosted sales for the class. However, year to date sales are still off 1% for the year compared to the same period in 2017.
For bigger machines sales softened. The sale of four-wheel drive tractors fell 5.9% for the month, but remain positive year to date when compared to 2017.
And it appears you want better harvest equipment because combine sales shot up 51.6% for May and are up 26.5% year to date when compared to 2017. Sometimes you can only wait so long before you have to replace equipment.
For the equipment business, any sign of new sales is a good sign. And we'll take it.
An ag tech partnership
Lindsay Corporation hasn't been sitting on its laurels when it comes to ag tech. The company has been a leader in tools to manage and monitor irrigation systems; it partnered with Syngenta to develop portions of its FieldNet system too. Now comes word that the company is partnering with Farmers Edge - a decision agriculture firm - to move information across platforms.
Farmers using FieldNet will be able to share their information to Farmers Edge to better manage inputs for a specific crop. As part of the agreement - and this is big news for Farmers Edge - 350 Zimmatic dealers will offer the Farmers Edge suite of digital tools through their dealerships.
With all the startups hitting the ag market, there are questions about how the future looks. In one way, the future looks like collaboration. In this case Lindsay and Farmers Edge will work together on data sharing and marketing. Startups can be acquired or partner with others to expand their businesses. We're on the cusp of a range of potential startup mergers and partnerships. This could mean a bit of a taming of the wild, wild West approach the market has felt like and bring a little more structure to this business.
For farmers it means greater confidence that a company they enter into a partnership with will not only be around, but perhaps open the doors to new tools and tech.
Farmers Edge and Lindsay will be synching information across their platforms, which will provide a greater level of precision management. And with water concerns growing, anything an irrigation equipment maker can do to maximize data that's collected will make a difference.
We've spoken to Wade Barnes since the early days of Farmers Edge, the company announced a significant launch of new tools earlier this year. This latest partnership will build on that work. In the media statement about the partnership, he noted that the collaboration is "another piece of the puzzle in our execution to build one digital platform that unlocks the value of data and addresses all aspects of farm management."
We'll watch how this unfolds to learn more about these key benefits and what they mean for irrigators. For Lindsay, this partnership short circuits that company's need to build a standalone data management platform. You can learn more about Farmers Edge at farmersedgeusa.com, and get information on FieldNet at myfieldnet.com.