On our latest episode of the Agriculture Technology Podcast, we sit down with Kyle Frazier, Sales and Marketing Manager with LaForge Systems.
As a leader in tractor-implement management, LaForge helps to optimize the use of agricultural tractors. Kyle and host Tony Kramer take a deep dive into LaForge’s precision farming solution: DynaTrac.
There are many reasons an implement may not be able to follow a tractor accurately, like slope, uneven soil condition, or unsymmetrical pull. But DynaTrac offers precision and repeatability, guaranteeing a high level of accuracy – and impacting yields, productivity, operational savings, reducing operator fatigue, and more.
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Read through Episode #104 here:
Tony Kramer: Hey, this is Tony Kramer, product specialist with RDO Equipment Co., and you are listening to the Agriculture Technology Podcast.
This is episode number 104. Today, we're going to be talking about LaForge systems and the hitch solutions that they have.
I'm really excited to welcome Kyle Frazier, who is the sales and marketing manager with LaForge systems. Thanks for joining me on the show today, Kyle. To get started, let's hear a little bit about you and your background and how you got to where you are today.
Kyle: Yes, thanks for having me. Background, I graduated with a Master's degree in Plant and Soil Science from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and then went to work for a few years in the training department for CNH, and then moved on to Orthman Manufacturing as a product specialist covering the eastern Corn Belt for them, and then most recently, this job as sales and marketing manager for LaForge Systems.
Tony Kramer: You've been all over the place, started out as a plant and crops guy and moved on to the equipment, to the manufacturing side. Definitely a little bit of a different travel path to get to where you are today, but not unlike others in the industry. It's always neat to hear people's backgrounds. Let's dive into it, Kyle, here. LaForge Systems, give us a little bit of background on the LaForge company and where it all started and where it originates from.
Kyle: LaForge is a French company. We manufacture our front hitches and PTOs in France. Then LaForge Systems was started about 30 years ago between Hubert de Frank and Lars Paulson, to satisfy the North American market. About 10 years ago, Hubert decided he needed to expand the company some more, so he bought some manufacturing resources in Waterloo, Iowa because he was traveling to Waterloo pretty often to work with John Deere. He wanted something where he was going all the time. They bought Bruns Machine in Waterloo, Iowa. Now we have warehousing and manufacturing capabilities there in the Waterloo area.
Probably five or six years ago, we introduced implement guidance hitches in addition to our front hitches and PTOs and other ballast solutions we sell. It's really grown from there. It's an exciting time in the industry for us.
Tony: Yes. LaForge has been in the hitch game for quite a while. You said about 30 years back, so it's definitely something they know. As precision agriculture adapts and we start talking implement guidance and using things like that, that we'll get into with one of your solutions, it definitely grows the offerings and the solutions that LaForge has to provide. To start out before we dive into more of the in depth and precision stuff, let's just touch a little bit. You did talk about the front hitches, PTO, and some of the ballast solutions that LaForge carries. Let's just talk real briefly on the front hitches. What specs and compatibility does LaForge have with front hitch solutions?
Kyle: Front hitch solutions, typically, they fed on tractors from 50 horse up to the largest tractors produced today. We can put front hitches on 9Rs, and 9RX, 9RTs, all the way down. We can provide solutions for the three and four series John Deere tractors as well.
Tony: Talking, those 9Rs or very large capacity machines or large horsepower machines, talking silage blades or dozers of any sort, do you guys have a solution to put a three point hitch on the front of those?
Kyle: We do. That solution comes with a powerful feature which is a unique feature to a LaForge hitch that allows you to fold the hitch arms up to the storage position without ever getting out of the cab and you do it hydraulically. We have some unique features within our hitches. That kind of set us apart from the competition and offer those efficiencies that a customer would want.
Tony: To go along with those front hitches, of course, you think of a front hitch, a lot of times, you might think of a front mount mower conditioner or something like that and we need PTO power. LaForge also has solutions for front PTOs. Let's talk about that a little bit.
Kyle: We can provide 1000 RPM or a 540 RPM clockwise rotation or counterclockwise rotation PTO for the front of a tractor. The 540 RPM is a 90 horse capable output PTO gearbox, and then we can do 180 horse output on a 1000 RPM gearbox.
Tony: Definitely a lot of different solutions and different options there for customers depending on what they're looking to do with that front hitch or that front PTO. It sounds like LaForge has a solution for those customers, which is really neat. Some of the things that we didn't touch on, but you can briefly talk about, if you want. You guys got ballasting solutions, you got carriage solutions for that ballast. If you just want to briefly touch on them?
Kyle: Most commonly, we have a ballast solution called EZ Mass which is a 600, 900, and 1,800 kilo weight blocks that would fit on a three point hitch or some of them are even designed to fit on the weight bracket on the front of a tractor. We have EZ Ballast Solution that we've just introduced within the last couple of years for the 7R series tractors. It allows you to add about 1,700 kilos of ballast within about a minute and a half without ever getting out of the tractor. You're going to drive over the weight, push a button in the cab, an arm comes down and catches the ballast solution and then picks it up.
You don't reduce your ground clearance, and it doesn't change the center of gravity on the tractor, but you're almost adding about 4,000 pounds of ballast to a tractor in a minute and a half.
Tony: Wow. That's a very efficient manner for those guys that are adding and removing ballast within the season. The next thing I want to talk about is the whole reason this podcast came about, and really, your guys dive into precision agriculture and where you said at the introduction where you're really excited to where this is going and what you have, but let's talk the DynaTrac Hitch, the bread and butter of steerable hitches in your guys mind. Tell us a little bit about that. What are the benefits of the DynaTrac Hitch?
Kyle: The DynaTrac hitch comes in three different versions. We have a two-point version for pull-type planters and then we have a category three narrow three point version, and then a category three wide or four narrow three point version as well. The benefits of that, it's going to help increase your efficiencies throughout the year, all season long. It's going to correct for implement drift and make sure that pass is true to your guidance line or your tractor steering to a guidance line. That hitch is going to then, with GPS correction and active implement guidance is they get to correct the implement and make sure that implement is staying on that same guidance line.
Tony: Of course, from the John Deere side of things, this works directly with active implement guidance, but do you guys also have solutions for other manufacturers as well?
Kyle: Yes, we do. We have others solutions. There's other guidance companies out there that have similar solutions, and then we also offer a camera system that controls our hitches. It's going to look at the row and then determine where the row is and where between the row is to keep your implement off the road and prevent crop damage. A lot of organic customers that are going to be doing a lot of row crop cultivation are interested in those.
That's where we see them as those high value crops, those organic crops, where you really need to focus on weed management, but then, looking outside the box, you see that camera system fitting into some cover crop situations where they plant the cover crop in a row, and then maybe not terminate the cover crop and want to plant between the rows of the cover crop, then we can use that camera system as well and to keep the implement between the cover crop rows to plant your crop, and then you come back and can use different tools to manage that carrot crop in season with that camera system as well and not damage your crop.
Tony: Aside from the camera, you talked about the seeing it in organic crops and things like that. What are some other crop markets? You obviously travel all over North America with these hitches and selling these solutions, what crop markets do you see guided implements in?
Kyle: Really any crop has an application, even in small grains where you get to a large air seeders, we've had conversations with growers that they want to control that air seeder to help eliminate overlaps or gaps in the field and then, to any low crop operation whether it be a high value vegetable crop or cotton or peanuts or potatoes, carrots, onions, things like that and then, just regular row crops, soy beans and corn. Any crop that's grown can benefit from active implement guidance because the accuracy and the implement drift that you experience with implements.
Tony: Yes, exactly like you were saying. It's not just a specific organic crop or it's not a specific raw crop, say corn, you're seeing it all over. That's really neat to hear that you're even seeing in small grains with large air seeders, that's one place that I, myself, would never think of implementing a steerable hitch or a steerable implement, but it's really neat to hear that it's going all across the ag industry and all crop markets. Within the DynaTrac family of hitches, you explained that you have a couple different solutions as far as categories and pull-type, but then you also have a couple of different models of that DynaTrac hitch. Let's explain to the listeners just a little bit of the differences between your Classic, your Ultima and your Premium DynaTrac hitch.
Kyle: Yes. The Classic is going to be our 2-point hitch for full-type planters, 2-point pull-type planters. It's going to replace the stock crossbar hitch. It can help eliminate that implement drift. We have two versions of that. We have a DynaTrac Classic and we have DynaTrac Classis Plus which for your heavier loads where you're going to add some fertilizer to your planter or even customers have taken those planters hitches and wanted to adapt them to other pull-type implements such as and other drills and things like that. We have a variety of adaptors there that we can put them on any pull-type implement.
Other brands of planters as well. It's not just a John Deere planter that it fits on it. It was designed originally for the 1770 or 1790 planters, but it fits on other brands of planters with adaptors or it could be a replacement as well. Simple, compact, 2-point hitch. It just slides side to side, zero daily maintenance on it because we use composite bushings so no lubrication or anything there. That's not adding any link to the tongue of the planter as well. You're not magnifying that issue of implement drift. You'll not have to run house extensions or harness extensions just to get your planter hooked up to your tractor.
We all know there's enough hoes and harnesses on planters nowadays that adding to it is not any fun. Then, we get to the Premium DynaTrac. We have two versions there as well. We have a DynaTrac Premium, which is a category 3 narrow and then, we have a DynaTrac Premium Plus, which is the same concept as the 3 narrow Premium hitch, except we removed the center section of the hitch so it's PTO driveline compatible. We can guide and implement it as driven by a PTO at the same time and not have interference with the driveline. That would be a category 3 narrow. The Premium and the Ultima would be hitches that replace a quick hitch on a 3-point of a tractor.
Then, the Ultima is also driveline compatible like the Premium Plus is. The Ultima is a heavier hitch, a bigger hitch to handle those heavier loads. With it being driveline compatible, obviously it's got some more reinforcement and so it does make it quite large, but it handles heavier loads of those category 3 wide or 4 narrow implements, your larger 16 row elevators or your 8 row Dammer dikers and potatoes that are going to be pulling pretty deep and those forces that you're going to have. One of the features with the Premium and the Ultima is our sway control that we have.
It was actually awarded a gold medal at the SIMA show in Paris this past spring. It's a cylinder on the arm of the hitch that works as a shock absorber. We have a semi implement or a 3-point metal implement. You don't have a pivot point like you do with the pull-type implements so when the tractor makes a correction, it influences the implement. Same thing with the implement making a correction, it's going to influence the tractor. With that cylinder in there, it creates sway control and creates a virtual pivot point, which then allows the two, the tractor and the implement thing, to stir independent of each other and not influence each other so that you see your tractor guidance being more accurate and you also see your implement being more accurate at the same time.
Tony: Yes, it's very similar to the front hitches. It definitely sounds like LaForge has a solution for just about everything, even you made the comment about the being able to stir a PTO driven implement. That's something that I was unaware of. Very cool, very unique solutions offered by LaForge Systems. Do you have any success story that you'd like to share with us, maybe a dealership or a customer that you were working directly with that definitely put a smile on your face when you went back home that day?
Kyle: This spring we were out in Nebraska and we put a DynaTrac Ultima on a tractor and potatoes and they were running a Dammer diker. In the past, they've also run implement guidance so it's nothing new to them, but the hitches they were using were old and they're having them rebuilt all the time. They're looking for another solution. When they came across our truer recommendations from one of their friends and they asked her dealer about it. He got them a hitch. They put it on. They got it all set up. The farmer went out and made one round in the field and then, came back.
He gets out of the tractor and walks over to me and says, "That's the first time I've ever been able to run tractor guidance and implement guidance together in the same pass." In the past they would always fight each other, and he goes, "Then, we'd end up having a big mess in the middle of the field." Because of our unique sway control and the way the hitch works, he could use his tractor guidance to make the correction and then, run implement guidance at the same time and they were not fighting each other. He was really excited about it after just making one round in the field.
Other success stories. Customers have said they've doubled the amount of acres they can spray in a day because when they went to implement guidance with that being true, they were able to run guidance on their sprayer then, which allowed them to run a higher ground speed and cover more acres in an hour. They were getting more production out of that sprayer in a day, but not being as fatigued at the end of the day either because they weren't having their hands through that sprayer all day long and not getting worn out and stressed out from that, but they weren't running over the crop. They could trust that that rail was true, which then allowed them to push the machine a little bit further and a little bit faster to get things done.
Tony: Definitely a number of values that you can put on implement guidance of any sort with a steerable hitch like the LaForge DynaTrac need to hear the making one round in the potato field, that's what I like to call a demo done right. The customer saw the value in that one round and that's really what you want to see. As implement guidance grows and precision egg grows, I definitely see the LaForge Systems DynaTrac hitch becoming more common. It's really neat to hear more about it and get this chance to talk to you, Kyle. If someone was interested in a LaForge Systems hitch, who can they talk to? Where can they go to learn more about your offerings?
Kyle: They can go to their local equipment dealer, local precision agriculture equipment dealer or they could go to laforgegroup.com and look for the DynaTrac under Products or they can give us a call at the office if they like.
Tony: Wonderful. I guess that I just want to thank you, Kyle, for taking the opportunity to sit down with me. You made the trip to the Red River Valley to do some visits and we took advantage of a face to face interview here. Thanks again for being willing to do this.
Kyle: Yes. Thanks for having me.
Tony: Visit rdoequipment.com/podcast to listen to new episodes and catch up on any that you have missed. You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast on any device or streaming