When it comes to deciding on equipment upgrades, the bottom line will ultimately be the biggest factor.
With lower incomes over the past few years, more farmers have been looking for ways to cut back and increase their return on investment. Equipment manufacturers have certainly taken notice.
“(Companies) need to convince them why they are doing the right thing. How they are helping the bottom line,” said Phil Jennings, Kinze Manufacturing service manager. “You have to be able to see a return on that investment, or why would I do it? (Farmers) are very practically minded, and if they’ve been successful in doing it that way, why would I change?”
The impact can be seen in the approach farmers have been taking when deciding to purchase brand new equipment or find used equipment a few years older but a few thousand dollars less expensive.
“There’s no question — probably over the last three or four years with the downturn — that guys who were normally buying new are holding onto their equipment longer,” said Kyle Kunkel, store manager at P&K Midwest, a dealership in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. “You just have to change your strategies as a dealership. You are looking for low-hour, clean used equipment because there are buyers for those right now.”
However, more farmers purchasing used equipment doesn’t stop advances from being made in the industry.
Jennings noted that while the farming economy may be at a low point, this is a chance for equipment manufacturers to make sure they are prepared when the pendulum swings the other direction.
“We’ve been through some of these cycles before,” Jennings said. “This is an excellent opportunity for us to bring it (a new product) forward and to educate and show what we are doing in preparation for that next market cycle. … They can see what we’ve been doing. We aren’t going to slow down in our development projects.”
One new feature Jennings discussed was Kinze’s Blue Vantage technology to assist farmers during planting. When developing the new dashboard technology, Jennings noted that the focus was on ease of use and simplicity.
He said that often farmers use this technology for only a month and a half out of the year, so having something that’s easy to remember how to use when the next season comes is important.
“The technologies we are adding add field efficiency,” Jennings said. “We are managing the inputs much better as far as the cost associated with seed, fertilizer, etc. … The (Blue Vantage) is a key piece of the puzzle because what we have been focusing on in electronics and technology is ease of use.”
He said the technology can provide depth for farmers who want it, but they could also start planting with it with just three presses of a button.
Kunkel described some of the new technology he sees being utilized around the dealership in eastern Iowa.
“There is a lot of new technology in planters right now,” Kunkel said. “John Deere came out with what is called an ExactEmerge planter, and that is a high-speed planter. You are planting up to 10 miles per hour in the field, and it’s a belt system. The delivery is different, so the idea is that you’ll have exact seed placement, exactly where you need it based on the speed you are running.”
He added that a combine camera system from Deere has been helpful as it can adjust on the fly.
“With some of the older models, guys have to get out and look and there’s a million adjustments you have to make on a combine, and the idea behind this is it is supposed to do it all itself,” he said.
While not necessarily a new technology, Kunkel has been seeing more and more farmers turn away from tires in favor of tracks. Using tracks can help spread out the weight on the field, limiting compaction on wet soil.
“You can figure right across the board that the tracks can be upwards of a third less footprint pressure, especially on the grain carts,” Jennings said. “That’s why you see the bigger combines and other things going the same route to increase that flotation and prevent some of the needed repairs after a (wet) fall like this.”