The startup world is full of its share of incubators. Those are groups of fledgling companies put together by a range of groups aiming to help entrepreneurs cross the bridge from idea to market.
A little more than a year ago, CNH Industrial created AgXtend, with the aim to act not so much as an incubator but as a facilitator to bring new ideas to market. During Agritechnica, the exhibit of products on the stand shows how quickly ideas can go from shop to market.
During a meet-and-greet event, CNH executives and leaders from AgXtend shared a look at six businesses that have products coming to market. Each product offers innovation to different areas of agriculture.
Hubertus Muhlhauser, CEO, CNH Industrial, explains that the company was looking at key trends affecting agriculture — automation, connectivity and servitization — which are disrupting agriculture on a global scale. “However, the world is moving so fast. and there’s such a vibrant startup scene [for agriculture],” he says.
About a year ago, CNH Industrial made a decision to invest in startups to leverage the company’s open architecture and software, he says. “We are open to work with; why don’t we invite those startups? And that was the birth of AgXtend.”
Muhlhauser explains that AgXtend is more than a brand. “This is a statement — it’s a statement and an invitation. True innovative young startups that want to conquer the world through the CNH Industrial global distribution, and we invite them and their teams, their technologists.”
He notes that while there is physical product in AgXtend, there will also be software. When a startup moves to success, it can be invited to be part of the CNH family, or it can stay independent. “It’s also clear we’ve moved on from concepts and speeches and PowerPoint,” Muhlhauser says. “We’re actually doing stuff.”
The tech of AgXtend
Here’s a look at the initial products on the stand from the partners in development with AgXtend. Each offers unique solutions in the market.
ISOBUS for all. Isomax is a development kit designed to make ISOBUS functionality available to any equipment maker. AgXtend developed the product with OSB AG, Fliegl Agrartechnik and Competence Center ISOBUS. AgXtend developers discovered there were few trained in programming for ISOBUS, yet most equipment will use this communication standard.
The system is fully Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation-certified, provides a developer’s kit for ISOBUS, and offers automatic implement recognition through the use of the hardware. The product netted AgXtend a silver medal from Agritechnica for 2019.
Shocking weed killer. AgXtend Xpower is a new way to control weeds using electricity. Developed by startup Zasso, the Electroherb consists of contact strips that are pushed along the ground (or pulled) over a field. The individual strips are electrified and shock weeds to death. The result is that any plant that is contacted by the strips dies down to the roots. No herbicides needed. Muhlhauser pointed that machine out as one of his favorites on the AgXtend stand. Zasso, which is a Japanese word for “weed in the wrong place,” is an independent company getting a boost through the AgXtend system.
The approach works on all types of weeds, even those resistant to herbicides. The tractor-mounted machine is currently available in 4-foot to 12-foot widths.
Precision on-the-go application. The idea of strapping a near-infrared sensor to a pipe pushing manure into an applicator isn’t new. But it’s not widely used yet, and the new NirXact from AgXtend promises to turn up the heat on the idea of precision input management. The multipurpose sensor can be used not only for variable-rate manure application, but can also be strapped onto forage harvesters, combines or balers, too, to measure feed and crop nutrient values on the go.
The information provided can be used to manage different parts of the farm operation. With nutrient management plans becoming more widely required in Europe and the United States, this kind of technology will have growing value.
On-the-go soil measurement. The SoilXplorer is a soil scanning system mounted to the front of a tractor. The system measures soil conductivity to determine soil types and relative water content, and even create compaction maps. The system can map at different soil layers from 12 inches to 45 inches deep. The system can even be used for variable-depth tillage; as the sensor identifies compaction zones, the information can be relayed to the tillage tool behind. It can also be used for on-the-go, variable-rate seeding.
Real-time nitrogen management. The CropXplorer and CropXplorer Basic are crop sensors designed to measure nitrogen needs of plants. The larger sensor with the big wings is the original CropXplorer. The Basic version is more compact. The system can be used for real-time, variable-rate nitrogen application in-season, based on sensor readings of plant health and nitrogen availability. The smaller Basic system builds on knowledge gained through use of the original CropXPlorer.
Quick soil sampling. The XLab proved to be a very popular device on the stand. In fact, it’s already sold out for 2020 in Europe. The units can be sold or leased. The lease includes the cloud subscription of in-field measurements. Purchasers of the device would buy a subscription for access to the information. The tool works like a shovel; you stick the probe into the ground, and it measures the key soil nutrient values present. A user could take multiple samples in a field and have the data available quickly for making prescription maps or other decisions for the farm.
Measuring the environment. The FarmXtend system uses environmental sensors to turn data into information. The three-part system includes WeatherXact, RainXact and SoilXact. Each collects specific information through a dedicated app. With the information, the system can predict crop disease pressures and identify the right times to spray for maximum benefit. This is an internet of things system, bringing new information to the farmer.
The AgXtend system is bringing real products to market, whether through support in marketing and access to the CNH Industrial brands dealer network, or through support of final development steps to move products from lab to field. You can learn more at agxtend.com.