New Technology Allows Continuous Harvesting

We take for granted that the arm bone is connected to the hand bone, but never before have we been able to virtually connect the combine to the grain cart. John Deere plans for farmers to also take that for granted one day.

Published on: Jun 21, 2011

A key part of the farming challenge is managing both equipment and personnel in the most efficient way. John Deere gave Farm Progress a peek at new software technology that will someday give farmers a way to link machines in-field for top efficiency. Here we share that future with our readers.

With the new John Deere technology the combine and tractor pulling the grain cart communicate with each other. On the monitor in the combine the operator can always know the grain cart's location in the field and the grain cart operator knows the combine's location and direction of travel. But even more important, he can see the level of grain in the tank. This allows the tractor operator to better know when the combine will need unloading, and prioritize which one to go to in operations using multiple combines.

During our look at the technology during harvest last fall, we got a ride in both the combine and in the tractor pulling the grain cart. The system is designed to work with the newest combine and tractor models. A key feature happens during on-the-go unloading. Units in the tractor and combine "lock on" to each other. The combine is able to maintain harvesting speed while the tractor's speed varies to evenly fill the grain cart. The system controls tractor speed and lateral side-to-side movement to keep in the right position with the combine for on-the-go unloading.  At the end of the row, the operator simply takes over the steering wheel to regain control of the unit. That breaks the communication link between the two units.

This also applies during a common situation in which the combine operator has to slow down for an obstruction, for example, and the cart would normally keep moving. With this technology the tractor speed would slow down, too, ensuring grain lands in the cart and not on the ground. The communication link is also broken if the combine comes to a complete stop. The tractor operator would see the link is broken and stop the tractor.

"It's live, high-band communication between machines," says Patrick Sikora, product manager, John Deere AMS. "It's simply a software solution," he adds. Some additional hardware would be needed, too, Sikora notes.  "If you already have AutoTrac installed in your machines, it's pretty simple to add the software."

Advantage with multiple machines

"The real value comes in when you have multiple machines to keep track of," notes Sikora.

It's an interactive system that provides alerts to all operators.  "Information is shared among multiple machines. Cart operators can see the fill status of many machines on their monitor and combine operators can see the location of the other combines and carts in the field. It allows the whole operation to be much more efficient. Combine and tractor operators can coordinate travel in the field better to reduce compaction."

"The ultimate goal is continuous harvesting. The idea is to eliminate combines sitting waiting for carts and it reduces stress during on-the-go unloading. The system is designed to work on contours as well as straight rows," adds Sikora.

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