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Podcast 124 - Combine Technology

Podcast Ep. 124 - Combine Technology

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Tony Kramer and Jake Maurer are back, discussing combine tech.

There are a lot of options when it comes to combine technology - whether fully integrated or order options when you purchase a new machine - and this latest episode breaks down the options.

With harvest on our minds, this episode is for anyone wanting more information - whether you're curious about utilization, not sure what the options look like, or perhaps you're interested in purchasing a new combine before fall harvest comes along, or looking to order one new for next year.

Tune in here:

 

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Each month, we share the latest in agriculture technology. Don’t miss an episode by subscribing to our podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Have a story idea or a precision ag topic we should highlight? Connect with us on social media:  Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Twitter and connect with podcast host, Tony Kramer on Twitter at: @RDOTonyK.

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Read the complete transcript:

Tony Kramer: Welcome back to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 124, and today, we are going to be touching on some combine technology.

Tony: Today like I said, we are going to be talking about some pieces of technology that are integrated into our combines or they are order options for when you buy a combine.

Jake: That's right.

Tony: We're going to touch on a few different pieces here. We're not going to go too in-depth on them, but we just want to, coming into harvest season, we're coming up on some spring wheat, winter wheat, starting to come off the field, we just thought it'd be a good idea to maybe touch on some of these technologies. If maybe you have them in your combine and you're not real sure how to utilize them, or you're not sure what they do, or maybe you're looking to get a new combine right here before fall harvest comes along, or looking to order one new for next year, for 2021. Whatever the situation may be, we're really excited to talk about some of these technologies.

Jake: A quick question, before we get going, I always get this confused. I know about ICA2, which would be your Interactive Combine Adjust, and I know about the HarvestSmart, but I've heard a lot about this whole Combine Advisor thing. I was wondering, can you clean that? What the heck is Combine Advisor?

Tony: I love that you asked that question, Jake, because it's true. That confuses a lot of people. The one thing I want to say is don't think too much into it. Really, what Combine Advisor is, is one, it's an order code. It's the Combine Advisor package, but Combine Advisor is a suite of technologies that helps you maximize your harvest profits. It's a couple of pieces, which you actually mentioned some of them. HarvestSmart, Active Terrain Adjustment, Auto Maintain, we throw Interactive Combine Adjust in there, ICA.

We're going to touch on all of those individually, but that is essentially what makes up Combine Advisor or the Combine Advisor package. Essentially, it's an order code. It's one term to encompass all of those technologies. It does, it confuses a lot of people. Hopefully, that clears it up. Hopefully, I didn't ramble on and make it even more confusing.

Jake: No, it's good. I've heard a lot of different things one of them being that you'll notice a difference between model year 20 and on, they're going to have a completely different layout. I remember when we were learning about this in Florida, they kept talking about Combine Advisor, Combine Advisor, Combine Advisor, and I'm like, well, then we already have ICA2, like what the heck-- I wanted you to clear that up before we really get into it, but that makes sense. Basically, Combine Advisor is just an application or a home of those four other applications or those four other tools.

Tony: Absolutely. It's just an all-encompassing term. One of the first ones I wanted to touch on, Jake, is HarvestSmart. Those not familiar with HarvestSmart. We have actually had this piece of technology going all the way back to the 70 series combines. If you had a 70 series combine or you have a 70 series combine with a pro-drive transmission, your combine came standard from the factory with HarvestSmart. What is HarvestSmart, Jake?

Jake: I had to actually look it up myself because it was one of those things you see HarvestSmart as part of this Combine Advisor package, and that was another one of those reasons, is HarvestSmart, different from Combine Advisor? I got it confused. I even asked you. I was doing a lot of reading through the book, getting excited about harvest season, and came across HarvestSmart. I'm like. my goodness after reading about this, why the heck wouldn't people use this?

I had to ask, why haven't we talked about this a lot more? Really, it's working with the relationship between your engine power and the engine power meter and your grain loss. It's almost a cruise control for your combine where you-- it doesn't even matter where your throttle is. You can have the hydro push all the way forward all the way back, but it's going to optimize its speed in order to keep the most efficient setting for your combines. That way you're maximizing your throughput and you're minimizing losses.

Tony: That's exactly it, Jake. One of the things to touch on is the system has changed over time a little bit. Initially, with the 70 series combines going into the S600 series combines, there's actually multiple ways to run the system. You could run it with your engine load, or you could run it with your rotor pressure based off, of rotor pressure, or you could run kind of a hybrid model of that looking at engine load and rotor pressure. Essentially, the thought or theory there was to maximize your throughput, running that combine as efficiently as possible and making sure that you are keeping that belly of that beast full as you're combining along.

Now over time, they have adapted the system into the 700 series combines and then moving into model year 20 and 21, they're looking at loss as well. They're actually trying to reduce loss, but also keep that combine full at the same time. It's really a neat technology that's out there. Like I said, there's not a lot of guys that are comfortable with it, or there's not a lot of guys that use it because they just really aren't sure what to do but if you have a pro drive transmission in your 70 series combine, your S 600, or your S 700, I would really encourage you to reach out to RDO, the product specialist team, or reach out to your local John Deere dealership and give HarvestSmart a try.

It's a technology that we've had for a while. Like I said, it's kind of changed a little bit over time, but it is really a neat technology that is out there. Again, came standard with the pro drive transmissions. Now, the next technology I want to touch on, Jake, we've had it out for a little while now, there are some performance upgrade or retrofit kits available, but ActiveYield. Let's talk a little bit about ActiveYield.

Jake: I'm a data nut. I absolutely love me some yield data. This one really, really gets me excited because there's nothing more frustrating than having to-- you go through all the effort to make sure you have your boundaries. Your client farm and field, you have your boundaries defined. You have every single piece of every single part of that documentation process done to its fullest extent. Then you basically biff it.

That's the nicest way of putting it. You biff it when it comes to harvest, you do all the legwork. Every product is named, everything is identified. You send your setup files to your combine. You contract your varieties as you're harvesting. Everything is as optimized as can be but we're not going to go through the process of calibrating our system. What the heck is the point of that, right?

Tony: I think one of the big things that we always get, and it's tough, we get it that, "I don't have a scale on my grain cart. How I don't have a weigh wagon of any sort," or you get the other hand of, "I have a scale on my green card, but I don't want to take the time to calibrate. I don't know how to calibrate my yield monitor, or I just don't have the time to calibrate my yield monitor." Whatever it may be, we understand we get it. We're not blaming anybody or pointing any fingers, but that here comes ActiveYield and this is why it's an awesome system.

Jake: Yes, the first time I was doing a yield data cleanup clinic here in North Dakota. I thought it was comical because all the, all the RDO boys were sitting there snickering at me like, you goofball, you're up there talking about how-- well, we have these frustrations with calibration, we have this stuff. Then Tony walks up to me at the end of it. Literally, I've been working for RDO all of a month and he says, "You know about ActiveYield, right?" I says, "What are you talking about?" He says, "That's the answer to every one of your questions," You want to have [chuckles] you know what I made sure that your documentation is, is correct. He's like ActiveYield. That's the easiest add on that you could possibly put in the tank. He's like, yes, ActiveYield.

There's really no easier or difficult way to explain it. Literally, it's going to calibrate your yield monitor every single time you run a load greater than, I forget the exact number.

Tony: I believe it takes a just looking at some specs here. It takes measurements between 2000 pounds of product and 6,600 pounds of product. Within that measurement is where it's taking those screenshots. The point you get 2000 pounds of product in your tank, and then it measures through the point of getting 6,600 pounds of product in your tank. Now, one thing to keep in mind in some rolly, varying terrain, if you are, if the machine is over a four-degree slope in any angle, it will throw out that load. Now when you come to the next load, if you are below that four-degree slope, it will take that and it'll utilize that.

Jake: Some of the cool things, obviously we have some automated processes in there. It's compatible with beans, corn, barley, wheat, and canola, which I'm not going to say it covers every crop, but for at least the cropping systems we have in the Red River Valley and most of North Dakota and South Dakota, in these regions, this is going to fit a lot of those crop systems.

One of the things, and I think it's a great tie into the data and me being just all over data is the ActiveYield data is only compatible with the John Deere Operations Center. To me, that's a really important thing. A lot of guys will say, well, why can't I use it with Apex? I've tried to export it into SMS or ADM S some other, a third party, a farm management information system, and they've struggled to see the value. I think it's a cool tie in, but with wireless data transfer and the JD connect, the MTG and the subscription that you have there the data's going to the operation center anyway, so you might as well have ActiveYield.

Tony: Yes. You talked about some of the compatibility with the crops, just touching on the compatibility of the machines, we can actually retrofit or field install this all the way back to a 2012S series S600 series combine, and then moving forward, of course, it can become a factory-installed as you order a new machine. If you're very diligent at calibrating your combine today maybe active yield isn't you need, but you got to think about time savings and consistency and accuracy. ActiveYield is another one of those products that can really help the efficiency of the grower or the operator as they're running along.

The next product I wanted to talk about is Active Terrain Adjust. Active Terrain Adjust comes to us just a few short years back, a very cool feature in the cleaning system or the cleaning shoe of the combine. Now, if you remember, I had mentioned that Active Terrain Adjust is another one of those pieces of the puzzle that comes with Combine Advisor. Jake, tell us a little bit about Active Terrain Adjust and what is Active Terrain Adjust or what does it do?

Jake: Yes, this is going to be a little bit different from the kind of country that I come from where we would use like a Hillco system. It's not going to help with that role. It's not going to help with the four or five-degree slopes that you have when your machine is running sideways. When you're going up and down hilly terrain, you're going up, vertical inclines and down similar downhill types of slopes, this is going to help by adjusting the chafer, sieve, and the cleaning fan, so that you're going to reduce the losses. You're going to basically be able to maintain a similar quality grain sample through all of the different pitches that the combine will go through.

Tony: Yes, that's exactly it. To put it in a nutshell and just give you a basic visual, when we start going up a hill, we start climbing a slope, what it's going to do essentially is it's going to slow down your cleaning fan. It is also going to open up your sieve and chafer a little bit from where your current settings are, just to make sure that we're allowing the crop to get into the clean grain elevator and we're not just blowing it out the back with our 1300 fan speeds or whatever we may be set at.

Then on the other side of that, what's going to happen is when we go to a downhill or a decline, it's going to speed up that cleaning fan. It's going to close down our sieve and chafer, just a little bit to make sure we're not getting too much residue or foreign material into our tank. It works both ways. they're, they're seeing anywhere from a 30 up to a 35% reduction of tailings on eight to 12 degrees of inclined. It is a system that works. It's a really neat system. You don't have to do anything. You just turn on or off. That's the nice part. There's no settings, there's nothing like that. It just you turn it on and off. The system does what it needs to do based on your incline or decline.

That's another system out there. Again, we talked about, it's part of that Combine Advisor package. I do believe you can actually get Active Terrain Adjust on its own without Combine Advisor, so those would definitely be questions you could talk to your a local John Deere dealership about. The other piece of the puzzle is ICA or Interactive Combine Adjust. Let's talk a little bit about that, Jake.

Jake: Absolutely. This is probably my most favorite one because as a former grain elevator employee, grain quality is a humongous deal. Obviously, some crops are worse than others. Obviously some seasons are worse than others. This is a really, really cool system because you get to-- Let's see how's the nicest way to explain myself as an operator? Inexperienced, those are the nicest ways. Obviously we can say other words that would be a little more colorful. We get yelled at a lot, usually for running into things more than anything, but neither here nor there. I'm the last person you would want to ask how to set the combine, right?

I can grow crops and I can help with chemistry and I can do some pretty cool stuff with sprayers, but I would be the last person you would want behind the wheel of any combine during harvest until this system comes in. I'm telling you, this is one of the neatest things I've ever seen. The ability to monitor your samples from inside the display. Literally sitting in the cab, you don't have to turn around and look and see what the tank is looking like. You can optimize settings for a number of different settings and targets. It's a cool system. I don't even know where to begin with it. Where do you want to even start with it?

Tony: You made a really good point there. Jake, where you had worked at an elevator grain handling a station elevator. You had worked at an elevator for a couple of years dealing with a crop coming in for material, dirty grain, things like that. You had mentioned you wouldn't be the first guy to ask for, hey, what do I need to do to clean this up?

Jake: No.

Tony: That is one of the cool things about Interactive Combine Adjust. You have priorities. When we're setting our priorities, you can set what you're looking to do, are we looking to minimize grain loss? Are we looking to minimize foreign material? Do we care about our quality for some of the guys that are dropping straw and bailing it? We set our priorities on what we want the machine to look at, and what it does is you can go through.

Maybe we're talking about grain quality, so broken grain, and it says, do you have white caps or broken grain in your tank? You click yes. On the display and it will then give you recommendations. Let's increase our cleaning fan or let's decrease our rotor speed or let's, close up our, or open up our thrashing clearance a little bit. Based on the information you input into the display, it will give you recommendations back on how to adjust them.

Cool thing is when you use ICA in the combine itself, it'll actually make those adjustments for you. You select which one you want to implement, and it will do it for you. Now, I say using ICA in the combine itself, there's also the mobile app, I believe it is the GoHarvest app, that you are able to utilize that same ICA feature and walk through that same stuff. Now difference there is it's not going to make those adjustments automatically.

ICA is another really cool feature, it's been out there for a number of years going back to the S600 series combines. That's something that you could potentially take advantage of through this harvest season of 2020. Now, the next one and the one that I really want to talk about, Jake, and touch on his Auto Maintain. With the S700 Series Combines John Deere.

Not too long ago we talked about the X9 combines, We all know these X9 combines are awesome. There's a ton of technology that goes into them, but when they came out with the S700 series, John Deere also made a huge leap into the future with what I would call artificial intelligence. We talk about automated farming or robots that are farming all the time and people always picture that, I know one of the biggest things is, of course, that Case IH tractor that doesn't have a cab on it, there's no operator seat, no nothing so you got that red tractor out in the field doing everything on its own.

John Deere quite a while back had one of those made for orchards and vineyards not many people know that. If you're ever down in the Moline area, go to the pavilion, go to the museum, there you go, at the pavilion, and I believe that tractor is there. It's a little automated robot, no cab, no driver. Anyways, one of the things when it comes to robots or automated farming is, it's happening today, Jake. It is already happening with things like Auto Maintain. What are we doing with Auto Maintain? What are the big key factors or components with Auto Maintain?

Jake: No two fields are the same. No two crops are the same. Even in the middle of a field, you're going to find that the harvest process changes. You're going to find that moistures will increase, you'll find more foreign material, you'll find that your samples will change, you'll hit different parts of the field that there's more weed pressure, you've got a lot more foreign material coming through.

Maybe grain quality changed, maybe you found that one hybrid is acting a little different from another and you set your combine based on, usually, you start the season off with the best-educated guests or maybe, however, you had it set last year, and then you just get going and you start making those micro-adjustments as you go through the day or go through the cycle of the first test, the test that you run, to make sure that the sample is going to look the way you want.

The moisture quality is where you want it to be and make sure the field conditions are fit. Obviously, as it starts to cool down, your moisture start to come up, your combine needs to adjust accordingly. Really, you're going to be the one that's going to be making those adjustments. The cool things like you said with, some of the artificial intelligence, we're going to use sensors and tools that are already integrated into this combine, and it's going to help us to optimize that.

Then the cool thing with Auto Maintain is that you can set those targets, you can set those samples based on what you're seeing in the display, the grain quality monitor. You can say I want my sample to continue to look like this. I can set my targets to maintain a certain amount of foreign material. The combine is going to adjust itself accordingly.

Tony: That's one of the biggest misconceptions I think about the Auto Maintain system and how it judges itself is, there's a lot of people out there that think is just automated. 100% automated and you have no control over it and that is not true. How this system works is that you initially set the combine to your liking, grain quality, grain loss, whatever it may be, you are setting all of those settings. You set your fan speed, your threshing clearance, your sieve, your chaffer, all of that stuff is set like normal.

Then when you are happy with how your tank sample looks, how your grain loss or your straw quality is, you set a performance target. From there, it uses things like the active vision cameras that are on the clean green elevator as well as the tailings elevator, tailings return. It uses active vision cameras to watch for broken grain or foreign material or whatever it may be. It constantly makes adjustments. You talked about how you know, every hybrid is different. Every variety is different, every field is different.

Heck, even in one field, we all love that beautiful morning dew that glistens on your grass. Well, I'll tell you what, that makes cutting wheat and soybeans hard right away in the morning. If you're setting your combine to cut that wheat that's a little more damp but then you're not changing it once it dries out, we're at the end of the day and we're working with really dry straw, it changes how that crop flows through the combine. Being able to utilize Auto Maintain to make those adjustments for you after you set that performance target, it's phenomenal.

Jake: Yes, it's really cool.

Tony: Like I said, artificial intelligence. It is essentially the combine is watching the crop flow. It's making those adjustments without you doing anything.

Jake: Yes, the neat thing, you can literally sit there and it's nice to have the extended display because you're going to find yourself just watching that video stream come in from the active vision cameras because it will literally take your grain sample, and it will highlight what pieces are broken, grain, and what's foreign material. It's actually really fun to just sit there and watch that. On the simulator, the combine simulator that you can run in my John Deere if you want to get a feel for what that looks like, they actually did a really good job of having a live streaming camera so you could see it.

It'll work make your head spin. It's really neat and to watch the combine actually make those adjustments on the fly. You can, of course, adjust sensitivities and you can also like I said you can reset performance targets or you can reset your optimization standards by what's more important to you but it's cool. That's the easiest way to say it. It's really a neat system.

Tony: You brought up another good point there, Jake, where say you're running the Auto Maintain system and it is making those adjustments for you, which you can actually see in a History page. You can see when it makes those adjustments and what it's adjusting, all of that is visible. You also made the comment about if you're not happy with it, you can make adjustments yourself. That is one of the key factors to this system, is if you get to a point where your the combine-- not Combine Advisor, there I go with that terminology.

Jake: I told you it's easy to get confused.

Tony: If the Auto Maintain system is not keeping up with what you want to see, you can turn it off, you can make manual adjustments again. Then when you're happy, you can reset a new performance target, and it will adjust itself to the new criteria that you have set. That's one of the biggest things is that you have the ability to still take manual control, you can make adjustments, you can do things that need to be done.

One of the really cool things when this first came out, Jake, the S700 Series Combines, I was working with a grower that they had three S700 Series Combines and three S600 Series Combines and this farm, they're very particular about their equipment, very particular about their crop. They're hesitant to pull the trigger on some technology because they want it to be proven first. They want to see the value, they want to see the numbers.

In those three S700 Series Combines, we got Auto Maintain in those when they purchased them. At the end of the season, the farm owner came to us and said he will never own another combine without Auto Maintain and the Combine Advisor package. He consistently saw less grain loss and cleaner grain quality out of those Auto Maintain combines than he did with his S800s without Auto Maintain.

If that's not saying something, I don't know what we need to tell you to pull the trigger on Auto Maintain or the Combine Advisor package. It is really an amazing technology that can turn a mediocre operator, maybe even a beginning operator, into a very good operator because the machine is doing what it needs to. You're not having to rely on very experienced combine operators to be in the seat.

Jake: If you're running a fleet of combines, you're obviously not going to be in the cab of every single one at the same time. You may have, it maybe you and your son is going to run the grain cart, and your daughter is going to run the combine, and maybe you're going to go back and forth between the elevator. The cool thing about this, and I think it's one of the lesser talked about things that I just think is one of the most fun features of this, is you can literally monitor all those settings from your phone or your iPad through MyOperations app.

You don't have to have a whole separate app because you're already watching the combine, you're already following the JD link, the telematic information, you're watching from notifications, but you can literally make adjustments as you're sitting looking at the sample while you're waiting in line at the elevator or right after you get the numbers back from the scale house. Instead of dialing up the operator and walking them through the steps, you can literally send those settings, send those changes directly to the machine.

Tony: Yes, so remote view and adjust, and we had back on episode 121. We had Daniel Esslinger on talking about the MyOperations app. At the very end of that episode, he touched on remote view and adjust, and some of the neat capabilities of it. You talked about it perfectly, Jake, there that you can view that combine, view the settings, you can make adjustments on that combine as long as we have JD link connectivity, and we have that MyOperations app pulled up. That's your right it doesn't get talked about enough.

That's another really cool technological. That's a really cool technology feature with the John Deere system, in partnership with the operation center, and the MyOperations app, and JD link all of that stuff wrapped into one. The amount of technology we have in these combines is phenomenal. I really do encourage you if you have some of this technology, but you haven't used it, reach out to your local John Deere dealership, come to us here at audio equipment, the product specialist team, we can get you comfortable with that technology and get you utilizing it out there in your combines.

Jake: Absolutely, I mean, you don't have to have an X9 combine in order to realize a lot of those features and benefits and a lot of those efficiencies. You're going to notice as time goes on that a lot of those experiences between your data sets and your equipment and your agronomic tools, you're going to notice so much more seamless experience moving forward. A lot more automated processes, a lot less I need this app for this, this app for that this is going to do this. You're going to notice that you're going to be able to just run everything from one single application, select a piece of equipment from your fleet, make those adjustments, send them to the machine.

It's going to leave-- this is the beginning of the future where we get more into that artificial intelligence, more into those insights that the machines can help us to make better more informed decisions, and to be just better growers, operators, and it's going to lead to a lot of great opportunities in the future.

Tony: Absolutely. I hope this episode here, Jake, and I talked a lot about a number of different combine technologies and some of the stuff that you may already have, or maybe you're questioning whether you should get it or not. Hopefully, we were able to give you a little bit of information to answer some of those questions or at least spark your interest to go in and talk to your local John Deere dealership. Thanks again for tuning in and listening to the podcast, and we'll catch you on the next one.