The DLG (German Agricultural Society) has just announced the winners of the 2021 Agritechnica Innovation Awards.

Altogether there were 164 qualifying submissions, and from these were selected one gold and 16 silver award winners.

Gold for an old idea revisited

The gold award went to a company called Nexat GmbH which has built a gantry type tractor that is designed to be automated from the outset.

The machine appears to be an attempt to bridge the gap between smaller robots with specific crop care tasks, and standard tractors which tend to have a much heavier workload.

gantry tractor automated
The gantry type tractor is a not a new idea but this appears a serious attempt to make it work

The machine comprises a frame, spanning a 12m width, upon which the implements are mounted. These not only include tillage tools but a combine harvester as well.

In effect, it is a bed system scaled up for normal tillage crops and is, apparently, powered by two diesel engines, although the company's website refers to a "hydrogen-powered Tesla tractor" being at the heart of its new "disruptive" farming system.

Awards for automation in other areas

Case New Holland (CNH) picked up two silver medals - both for bringing further automation to existing machines in a bid to make them more efficient.

The first is for its OptiSpread system which aims to create "uniform lateral distribution of the material chopped by combine harvesters".

CNH Combine awards
CNH appeared twice in the list of awards, its work on ensuring an even distribution of harvested crop residue won a silver

It does this by sensing the density of the chopped material as it exits the spreaders and alters the speed of the spreading motors in response to the feedback from the cameras.

Even distribution of crop residue is an important part of harvesting the company feels, although it appears that the effectiveness of the system is still subject to crosswinds.

Bales of one weight

The second development applies to big square balers and is intended to ensure they are all of uniform size, shape and density.

CNH big baler with senors for speed control
Bales of uniform weight and density are promised by CNH and its Big Baler Automation system

A combination of sensors detects the width and location of the swath and adjusts the tractor speed to ensure crop flow into the chamber is uniform in its rate and across its width.

Chamber pressure is automatically adjusted in real time to ensure bales of consistent weight are produced over the entire field.

Air filter cleaning

Fendt, which is usually associated with super high-tech wizardry, has won a silver for a task that is a little more prosaic, and that is keeping the engine air filter clean.

Its latest system relies upon a store of compressed air to pressurise the inside of the filter whenever there is a drop in supply to the inlet manifold.

Fendt were awarded a silver for a very practical application
Fendt was awarded a silver for a very practical application

The dust dislodged by this action is then sucked out of the canister by a vacuum created by the cooling fan which is speeded up in anticipation of the cleaning cycle.

All this is done totally automatically and relieves the need for regular manual cleaning of the filter, as well as increasing engine efficiency by ensuring a free flowing supply of air to the intake.

Awards for taking care of the soil

The soil is the literal foundation of agriculture and taking proper care of it is now a hot topic.

Claas has been looking at how to prevent soil compaction and believes its Terranimo soil compaction risk display is one aid to the avoidance of damage.

Cemos claas soil
Operators of Claas tractors will be able to assess risk of soil damage with new Terranimo system

The display shows the driver how high the risk of compaction is under the current operating conditions on the terminal in the cab.

Claas claims to be able to calculate this through information supplied by its Cemos system on aspects such as the soil type/condition, axle loads or tyre pressures.

This data is then fed into the Terranimo tool which simulates soil loading and load bearing capacity.

A series of lights will then show up on the control screen to warn the driver of any adverse effect the tractor is having on the soil.

Traffic planning

In a similar bid to manage traffic on vulnerable soils, Rauch, in a joint venture with AgriCircle AG, has created a service by which farmers can calculate the navigability of tillage land in advance.

The local soil moisture is estimated by means of radar measurements performed by the Sentinel-1 satellites in combination with weather data. The user then inputs the data pertinent to the machine to be used.

traffic planning with sensors
Traffic planning on vulnerable soils can help avoid damage to their structure

This soil and machine information is then used to calculate the navigability of the land in advance and is displayed for specific partial areas in a 10m grid, allowing routes to be chosen which minimise soil damage.

The Compaction Prevention System (CPS) from Agtech 2030 also won a silver medal and it offers much the same service, although there would appear to be a greater emphasis on integrating the data into a farm management plan.

Other awards were given for increasing the safety of autonomous vehicles, harvesting broccoli, irrigation machinery and inter-row weeding, among others.