Try to get past the idea that this might be one more column on innovation to read about. I'm not talking robots — though, I could. But a recent announcement during Commodity Classic brought to mind that there are already many new ideas coming to ag that will make a difference. Perhaps that’s most apparent with the Davidson Prize announcement during the 2021 virtual commodity event.
This was the fourth year of the prize, which honors the top tier of honorees from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers AE50 awards. The prize was developed by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers and honors J.B. Davidson, the first person to combine agriculture and engineering as a profession.
The AE50 highlights a range of innovations across agriculture; then the Davidson Prize selects three honorees from the top 10 AE50 winners. And for 2021, the three innovative products recognized show out-of-the-box thinking keeps ag moving forward.
The three honorees for 2021 include:
- Purdue University’s LeafSpec portable hyperspectral corn leaf imager
- Haber Technologies Inc.’s DRI-Stack grain drying and aeration system
- Agco 9350 DynaFlex Draper Header with AutoDock, a 50-foot flexible header with an automatic system for attaching all mechanical, electrical and hydraulic connections
The LeafSpec system can deliver hyperspectral imagery from a mobile device. Usually this is done with large, expensive stations for plant phenotyping, but Purdue assistant professor Jian Jin, creator of LeafSpec, explains the hand-held tool can process an image on-site. "It removes the impact of ambient light. The image can be georeferenced, and the results are available in real time," he says.
Several LeafSpec units have been sold to seed companies and universities, but the company is still in startup mode and looking for investors and manufacturing capacity. The information it can measure is almost as valuable as taking tissue samples, but it’s nondestructive and results are quick.
Stack it up
The DRI-Stack system from Haber Technologies is an interesting idea. Essentially, it consists of steel "stacks" in a grain bin that stand from floor to ceiling and become conduits for air in the bin.
With the system, the company shows it can increase airflow in the bin and reduce grain moisture efficiently.
It's almost a commonsense idea — just insert open pillars in a grain bin to provide enhanced airflow.
Innovating a harvest chore
The third honoree is an eye-opener. The AutoDock system on the Davidson award-winning 9350 DynaFlex Draper and the Command Series corn heads is a kind of game changer you don't always think about. But consider what it takes to connect or disconnect a grain head from the combine.
When connecting, you hook the head with the feeder housing and raise it; then you leave the cab to hook up electric, drive-shaft and hydraulic connections. Due to the design of most heads, that means a lot of walking around the combine or head, and then climbing back in the cab.
The AutoDock system means you don't have to leave the cab. Simply lift the head onto the feeder house and then push a button — all the connections are made automatically.
Barry O'Shea, Agco vice president and global product line manager, says the idea for the system came from a single source: "We spend a lot of time in the field with farmers. They're looking for smart solutions to help them be more productive. We want to make the farmers’ lives easier."
One question at the event was about keeping connections clean, and given the chaff involved with wheat, it's a concern. "There are doors on the connections to keep things clean," O'Shea notes.
Innovation comes in many forms. The Davidson prize honored some interesting tools, but I see new ideas every day and often get to write about them. And while you're plugging away this spring getting that crop in, it's worth knowing you're part of what many consider to be an innovative industry.