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XtraBlatt Issue 01-2022

  • Text
  • Xtrablatt
  • Carbon
  • Farmers
  • Machinery
  • Contractors
  • Germany
  • Grassland
  • Slurry
  • Biogas
  • Agricultural
  • Krone

KNOWLEDGE He says there

KNOWLEDGE He says there are two key aspects when it comes to the main motivation and aims in developing the process unit: Firstly, the autonomous technology, which is halfway to being ready for series production, will help counter the foreseeable lack of skilled labour in agriculture. The managing director states that this is not about having complex tasks carried out by less qualified operators. “This is of secondary importance. What’s more important is that skilled staff can cover more hectares and achieve a better quality of work when operating autonomous technology. This means that one person operates two or three autonomous units while still doing other farm work, for example operating a regular tractor-implement combination. If needs be, they can carry out several jobs at once,” Jan Horstmann explains. The second key aspect is related to the actual quality of work – namely achieving a consistently high level throughout the day, something that even seasoned operators won’t usually achieve consistently in Jan’s experience. “As manufacturers specialising in harvesting equipment, we want to do everything we can to make ensure the highest level of performance for our machines to produce the highest quality fodder. That’s why we are pursuing a different approach in developing our equipment, an approach based on the process itself. After all, the initial idea of the TIM tractor-implement management which sees the machine dictating the tractor what to do still doesn’t work particularly well. The software programs and interfaces between tractor and equipment manufacturers aren’t yet as compatible as they need to be. Not all processes we would like to automate can be automated; and not all interfaces are as compatible as the equipment requires them to be. That’s why, at the end of the day, the data management does not work properly,” Jan Horstmann explains the strategy of the CP partners. “That’s why this project is also a statement: We strive for the optimal use of a machine by a powerful, mobile and self-sufficient source of energy. The key lies with the attached equipment not with the drive unit. It’s not our aim to re-invent the wheel, figuratively speaking, rather we focus our development work on the right aspects.” DIESEL-ELECTRIC Based on the idea of optimising processes, an interested observer might ask himself how a specialist manufacturer in forage harvesting and a specialist manufacturer in tillage and sowing implements can accommodate their very different requirements in a single solution such as the process unit. The managing director quickly puts paid to Two process units 2.0 have been trialled by farmers and contractors since spring of this year in order to gain experience with the machines. these concerns: “This is why we made sure we could use our regular attachments – both arable and grassland – in their high-output versions. We paid close attention to this from the very beginning.” The approximate specifications of the process unit include a weight of between 7.5t and 8t depending on weights fitted and application, four 38-inch wheels, all-wheel drive, pulling and pushing action, a width of 2.7m, height of 2.6m and a diesel-electric engine with 170kW/230hp. The process unit can easily carry out the six tasks defined for the initial phase, which include ploughing, cultivating, sowing, mowing, tedding and raking, and it does so at the level desired with very good results in terms of traction as well as soil protection and speed. “The combination of these very different tasks ensures that the unit is utilised well throughout the year,” Jan Horstmann continues. In his opinion, one of the mainstays of the concept is the diesel-electric engine. This concept allows to cut the engine speed from that of the attachment and have the engine run in the most economical range for the work in hand. That explains why the pto shaft is driven electrically. The design is reckoned to make combined powers a particularly fuel-efficient unit. PUT TO THE TEST What are the essential areas that will be researched into in the practical field trials this year? After all, there will be three units that will be put through their paces by farmers and contractors. Jan Horstmann states that there are two main research areas: autonomous driving and autonomous application control. With regards to the actual driving itself, they will explore the appropriate field size and structure for running one process unit productively or even several simultaneously. What autonomous driving concepts are there to increase work efficiency? And what are the data and data transfer requirements for this? The legal framework for autonomous driving and the necessary solutions for recognising the environment also play an important role. The role of the tractor driver should also not be forgotten. Up until now, his or her role has mainly been operating a tractor and attached equipment, whereas in future the focus will be on monitoring several autonomous units. The second research areas of autonomous machine set-up and control looks at the development of sensors. Jan Horstmann explains that sensors will help to continually optimise things. One example he gives is maintaining an optimal work height, for example the famous 7cm when cutting grass. He states that in this regard, the traditional “OPTIMISING THE PROCESSES IN THE FIELD IS MOST DEFINITELY THE FOCAL POINT.” JAN HORSTMANN, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF KRONE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT tractor-implement combos could definitely be optimised, be it in terms of the settings or height control. “Autonomous control solutions could tangibly improve the quality of work,” Jan states of his expectations of the technology. And this applies not only to the fully autonomous units: “The developments will also be of benefit for our production machines,” he says, meaning that the process unit is actually playing a pivotal role in all future development work. STEEP LEARNING CURVE Apart from optimising the working height, he also envisages significantly improved driving and mowing strategies. Using corresponding software via the tractor’s operating panel, these could really help the driver. He is convinced that there is further significant potential in terms of efficiency and quality when it comes to the best way to work fields – and the best way may well be different from how things have been done in the past. The R&D head emphatically dismisses any worries about equipment bristling with sensors in the future: “We already know today that we’ll need only a few more sensors if we install them in the right place and have them collect the right data. It is clear, however, that it’s not just the sensors, but also the attachments themselves that have to become more robust and intelligent. There is still a lot of untapped potential here that we want to research into that during the next few years.” To this end, there are two process units 2.0 available this year, which have been developed based on last year’s experience with the first test unit. “Our concept is still at the very early stage of an extensive development process and we will continue working on this for years to come. But we’ve already kicked things off and what we’ve seen and learned so far is very exciting. Combined Powers PU is pioneering us into in a new generation of machines,” Jan Horstmann summaries, and his enthusiasm is infectious. « 24 25