The European farm equipment market is a fun one to watch and since 1998, the Tractor of the Year program has recognized top technology for these working machines. This year, thanks to the virtual nature of just about everything, I decided to sit in on the award ceremony.
The event was not without its glitches and for many the familiar "we can't hear you" was part of the festivities as some presenters couldn't find the mute button. Or for one winner where the delay of the live virtual event was just bad enough that the honoree couldn't really make his acceptance speech. The master of ceremonies for this event was very good about moving on when things didn't work.
If you've never heard of the Tractor of the Year competition, it may be because U.S. ag journalists don't always cover it, but this program involves companies entering to be considered. Then the finalists in several categories are reviewed by a jury made up of machinery and agricultural journalists. From my perspective, what's not to love? I see what my global colleagues find interesting, of value or important for their style of agriculture.
"Year after year [this competition] has grown by involving a jury of professional journalist from all over Europe who work in magazines, on websites, television shows and social media," says Fabio Zammaretti, director of the Tractor of the Year competition, or TOTY as it has come to be called. "This year we had to rethink the way we communicated, and we created a digital platform to keep in touch [with jurists] and share new and interesting content."
Zammaretti notes digitaltoty.com was sponsored by Indian tire maker BKT, which itself has a growing global presence. The digital site reached more than 2.5 million people, had 850,000 video views and 200,000 interactions with farmers from all over the world.
Journalists from 25 countries were represented on the Euro panel charged with evaluating tractors in four categories. And while "virtual" became the word of the day, many of those journalists were able to get hands on experience with the finalist machines.
I'm going to break down the contest and if you can't wait, you can scroll to the end to see who won.
TOTY in detail
The contest includes four categories.
The Tractor of the Year main category is open to all tractor sizes with no limit and gave the competition its name, Zammaretti says. For that category, judges were looking at several factors including, engines, transmissions, electronics, hydraulics, cab comfort, innovative features, options, design, connectivity and precision farming capability.
Contestants in this category included the ArmaTrac Lux 1254 CRD4; Case IH Quadtrac 620; Claas Axion 960 Cemos; Fendt 1167 Vario MT; Kubota M7 173 KVT; Landini Serie 7 V-Shift; Massey Ferguson – 8S.265 Dyna CT; NH T 6.160 Dynamic Command; and the Steyr 6240 Absolut CVT
The second category for 2021 is Best Utility and was for smaller tractors with a maximum of four cylinder engines but with more than 70 hp. They were limited to less than 22,000 pounds in weight and designed for everyday use and transport. They had to be maneuverable too. This was a smaller group and included the following machines: ArmaTrac 1004 LUX CRD 4; Case IH Vestum 130 CVX drive; Fendt 211 Vario; Kubota M6 142 KVT; and the Valtra G135 Versu.
Parameters for this group include engine, transmission, hydraulics, comfort, innovative technology, options, design and versatility.
The third category was Best of Specialized, and was for tractors with a specific mission. Think vineyard machines that can run down those narrow rows but may also still have plenty of horsepower. Contestants here include Antonio Carrara Tony 8900 V; Fendt 211 V Vario; Landini Rex 3-080-Stage V; and the Valtra F 105.
Parameters here include engine, transmission, comfort, agility and design.
The final category, which wraps up all the short-listed finalists in all categories, is new for 2021. It's the Sustainable TOTY. This category looks across the brands to explore sustainability in new ways.
Says Zammaretti: "This is not an award for the greenest tractors, but how new technology, intelligence, data analysis, alternative engines are creating more safety, more reliability, more efficiency and less polluting."
The technology played a big role in the winner of this category.
And the winners are?
First up is that sustainability winner. The honor goes to the Claas Axion 960 Cemos. The tractor relies on the Claas CEMOS technology for efficient operation. And the line was introduced in the U.S. market for 2020.
The specialized TOTY goes to the Fendt 211 V Vario. Christoph Gröblinghoff, part of the managing board at Fendt, commented when the award was announced: "It is very clear after years of hard work and good design, we won the prize here. And the smallest Fendt tractor is as important as the largest."
The Fendt 211 series is not yet available in the United States. Fendt is, however, an Agco brand.
In the Best of Utility, the top honor went to the Valtra G 135 Versu. Management at Valtra, commenting on the award noted that they didn't see it coming. Calling it a great Christmas present for Finland, company folks on the virtual event also noted that 2021 is the 70th anniversary of the brand. Oh, and they had Santa sitting in a Valtra tractor during the virtual event – nice touch.
Note, Valtra, based in Finland, is also an Agco brand but is not distributed in the United States.
And for the 2021 Tractor of the Year? The real TOTY as it were? Those honors went to the Massey Ferguson 8S.265. This is part of the new 8S series launched in mid-year 2020 for Europe by this division of Agco. This line is heading to North America in the fall of 2021.
We would have heard comments from the Massey management team during the virtual call, but like a couple others during the event, they were on mute. It happens to everyone.
Congrats to the winners of the 2021 TOTY.