This episode’s focus is on Amity Technology and more specifically, its sugar beet equipment and technology.
Amity, based in Fargo, N.D., manufactures a line of sugar beet equipment – more specifically three primary products: the defoliator, the harvester, and the beet cart.
Michael Anderson, engineering manager with Amity, joins host Tony Kramer to discuss more about sugar beet equipment and technologies that growers are using across the globe.
Learn more about Amity Technology by visiting its website.
You can find past podcast episodes by visiting our Podcast website.
Have precision ag questions? We have the answers. Find a specific channel dedicated to answering your precision technology questions: Precision Ag Answers
View the entire transcript here:
Tony Kramer: Welcome back to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 155. Today, we are going to be talking about Amity Technology. Before we dive into the show, please take a moment to subscribe to the podcast. If you haven't already, you can subscribe to the show on the many different podcasting apps that we're streaming this out to such as Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, we've got it on Stitcher, Overcast, SoundCloud, as well as many others.
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Now with that, let's get back to the show. I'm very excited to welcome Michael Anderson, who is the engineering manager with Amity. Thanks for joining us on the show today, Michael. To get started, I'd like to hear a little bit more about you and your background and how you got involved in the industry.
Michael Anderson: Thanks for having me on today, Tony. I got involved with the industry, I actually grew up on a small farm in central North Dakota in the small town of Leeds and came to MDSU here in Fargo for engineering school, graduate degree in mechanical engineering, got an internship with Amity when I was in school, moved into full-time career with Amity as a product engineer and a few years back moved into the engineering management role.
Tony: Farmboy right into the ag industry. I like that. We get to hear a lot of different stories and backgrounds on how people get to where they're at. You, like myself, I graduated in college, I've been with RDO this whole time. You have been with Amity the whole time so congratulations to that. Let's dive into the show here, Michael. Amity Technology. Let's just start out, give us a little background on who is Amity, where did it all start?
Michael: Amity Technology really started in 1996. It started with the purchase of what was WIC at the time, Sugar Beet Harvest Equipment, very well-known name of the sugar beet harvesting industry in the United States. It was purchased by Howard and Brian Dahl, still the owners of the company. They're still stationed right here in Fargo, North Dakota, privately held company.
They got a lot of their backs round from deep in manufacturing within the state of North Dakota from their grandfather inventing the first windrow pickup head for harvesting grains, then running into the Mill Road company, of course, which came the Bobcat Loader. Their father owned this- ran the Steiger Tractor plant and built that to the very large company before that got sold to Case. Then at the same time, Howard and Brian's story started in the '70s with the Concord Air Drill, really the first inventors of the air drill to the world. Then obviously, they also sold that to Case. Happens to be the same day in 1996 that they started Amity Technology.
Tony: Wow. That's actually more than I even knew. Howard and Brian definitely have a long upbringing and long history of manufacturing in the state of North Dakota, and being tied to all those different companies is really neat to hear of where they've come from and where they're at today. Now you talked about WIC, Sugar Beet Equipment. Now, of course, under the Amity Technology umbrella, that has been the bread and butter of recent years when it comes to Amity Technology. That's really what I want to focus on here, Michael, is let's talk about the beet equipment that you guys offer and the technologies that you have brought to the industry on your sugar beet equipment.
Starting out, you know, as well as I know everybody or most people that know the Sugar Beet industry have looked at it as a very manual process. It's just like tillage, just a bunch of iron moving through the ground, but you guys at Amity Technology have really taken the opportunity to move that equipment forward and add pieces of technology that are going to benefit the customers and benefit the actual harvestability of the sugar beets and whatnot. Let's dive into that. Let's start out first with what you guys have done with defoliator technology.
Michael: Good question. Defoliators are one of the three major product lines we have for harvesting sugar beets, the defoliator, the harvester, and then the beet cart would be the three pieces there. On the defoliator side of things, it really started the big technology push. Honestly started probably about eight-ish years ago, and we released a 50 Series defoliator. That was our high-speed defoliator.
What that allowed the farmers to do is, especially we're recording this podcast, very late in October and as it's starting to get very cold outside, the beets don't like to be too cold or too hot for that matter when they're being harvested. It really helps match the speed of the defoliator to the speed of the harvester. What that allows you to do is to continue to harvest at a higher rate of speed without harming the beets for that long-term storage potential.
That 50 Series defoliator allowed farmers to do that. It was really a response of Amity to the customer's needs and wanting to match the speeds one-to-one so that they would be able to harvest the beets efficiently, especially late in the season. That was really the first big step we took forward in the industry for new technology. Then recently, in that same timeframe too, we've also had quite a bit of new developments been to the steering systems on the defoliators. Those were available options as well.
From the technology standpoint, we have been able to tie into and working through our dealerships, we were able to tie into things such as the active implement guidance through John Deere. A lot of farmers find a lot of success in that as they have that precise location of the defoliator already known from the planting operation, and so they can use that information for their location of the defoliator during the harvest operation as well.
Then, finally, in the few years back here, we released what's known as Active Height Control on the defoliator, AHC for short. What that does, and that's an industry first, would be it allows for the ability to level the defoliator to the tops of the beets. Not just measuring from the ground as may be common and other types of leveling applications, but we're actually measuring the tops of the beets and adjusting the defoliator height accordingly.
Tony: Let's talk a little bit more about Active Height Control. If you've never been out into a sugar beet field, you've never experienced sugar beet harvest, You and I both know Michael that not every sugar beet is the exact same size, the field isn't perfectly level. I would imagine that this Active Height Control helps in a lot of different perspectives. Let's talk a little bit more about what makes that feature special on the Amity defoliators.
Michael: It's a very good question. Active Height Control is an Amity Technology industry exclusive. We came up with it just a few years back here. How it works is it measures the tops of the sugar beets, and it actually levels the machine accordingly based on the tops of the sugar beets, in other areas, maybe you're leveling off the ground, but again, this is off the tops of the beets. What it allows for is for that precise control, not having to adjust the settings of the machine from field to field without having to get out of the tractor cab.
Then also, again, Tony, you know this too, but others might not, because there's multiple pieces of equipment in the field, there's a harvester and that's a separate machine from the defoliator, it allows for a quick phone call, a quick call over the radio to ask the defoliator operator to make some adjustments right from their tractor seat, as opposed to having to get out, move mechanical stops or whatever that may be to set the height of the machine.
They're getting a precise cut on the tops of the sugar beets, reducing tear and the like just by sitting in their own tractor seat. Sometimes the defoliator operator might not have the most time on the farm. 10 people tend to come back to the farms when it comes to sugar beet season because there's a lot of people needed to make that all operation run and they may not spend as much time on the farm as maybe the harvester operator, or someone else that's in the field. It really allows for that ease of operation for the defoliator operator.
Tony: That's a really good point you bring up there, Michael. It's that one, the defoliator operator, maybe it's grandpa or it's dad, or it's the retired neighbor down the road. What I always said defoliating or topping beets is like mowing the lawn just really, really slow, but yet you got to stay on the row. To be able to, not only have the active height control as you're going down the field but to be able to adjust the height in-cab, right from the seat of the tractor, no matter who it is in that machine, they can make those adjustments.
You actually had brought up about traditionally, you had to go put in some donut stops into the hydraulic cylinders on the defoliator and you had to change it manually. To be able to have that in-cab adjustment is even nicer because again, like you had mentioned, the harvester comes behind the defoliator. If the harvester operator is seeing too much green tops or too much foliage left on the beet, or maybe they're starting to knock beets out, maybe they're too low and they need to go up a little bit, very easy adjustments can be made right from in the cab. Very good point. Definitely, a beneficial technology when it comes to defoliator operation and everything that you can do there.
All of these technologies that you've brought into the defoliator market, whether it be the Active Height Control we were just talking about, it's the steerable axles that link together with John Deere's active implement guidance, or that high-speed, that 50 Series High-Speed model. You were mentioning the industry wanted or Amity wanted to match that one-to-one ratio of harvesting versus the defoliator whereas before traditionally, the defoliator was a very, very slow process to make sure you got the proper defoliation, make sure you got everything done. Everything you guys have done with your lineup of defoliator models has been beneficial to the customer to the sugar beet industry and made everything more efficient from that perspective.
Now, the other thing I want to dive into Michael is the harvester. You said that you got three lines, or three major pieces of equipment, you got the defoliator, wow let's dive into the harvester. Again, something that I think a lot of people have looked at as very traditional, just pulling iron through the field, you guys at Amity technology have taken the opportunity to add technology into this, and really bring it up to speed with where we're at today when it comes to technology in ag. Let's talk a little bit about the different technologies you guys have to offer when it comes to your harvester lineup.
Michael: Yes, absolutely. Our harvester lineup has been- we actually revamped our most popular model the 2720, which is a 12-row by 22-inch row spacing harvester. That's a new machine for us, as of I believe, is about two years ago now. There were a lot of incremental upgrades to that machine over our 2700 model, which was prior to that very popular model.
One of the things that incorporate into that design is active depth control, which we've had on around for quite some time. What that does is it levels the machine from side to side so really controls that depth of the digging of the lifter wheels in the ground, which ultimately dictates how much dirt you're bringing through the machine, how much you have to clean out, and how much tear you're bringing back to the piling stations.
What we did with the 2720 is we released AD our active depth control system on the ISOBUS platform. It really allows for expandability into the future allows personal upgrade on the screen design so that better user interface and just an overall better system than what was previously being used to bring us up into the newer age of the technology side there.
Along with the 2720, we also did a few more items on the back end of the machine really increasing the capacity. Our scrub is the very back of the machine that does some very additional cleaning at the tail end of the machine there. What we did there was we increased the capacity of that so the overall throughput it was allowing the farmers to ultimately run their machines faster down the field, without having to worry about plugging or anything like that.
A few other features we added at the same time was an option for tracks on that machine. We also added on avail an optional high profile chain, so it's like a cam drive belt is what it ultimately is and so that's where the chain is being driven, as opposed to traditionally being driven off the rods of the belt, which would have been a steel sprocket running on the steel rods. That works fine for most of the time. However, this would overall increase the life of the belted chain, because it's running rubber on the steel of the sprocket.
Again, increasing the life, just overall throughput overall efficiency of the machine and then find that we added some creature comforts as well, easier door access, it's easier to open up the side doors, check things over, make sure everything mechanical is still running properly and then a few other creature comforts like some lights underneath the door. Hopefully, you don't have to get out and look underneath the doors at 2:00 in the morning but now you can see easier if you do have to do that.
Tony: Again, a lot of good features a lot of good additions to everything you guys are doing with your harvester lineups, bringing out that 2720 model, just having that active depth control again on those models, or the dynamic chain management being able to increase your throughput or have that adjustability from in the cab.
The one thing that I want to touch on is the ISOBUS capabilities. Some of these features were say the act of depth control, that was-- You guys had a solution with active depth control prior to ISOBUS capabilities. Now of course I'm quite partial to green tractors but when we say ISOBUS capabilities, this is giving growers the ability to plug into the ISO coupler at the back of their tractor whether their tractor is green, red, blue, whatever color you want you decide to use on your farm and they're able to see everything that needs to be seen on the harvesters. Correct?
Michael: Yes, that's correct.
Tony: That's one of the things I think that is also really neat with what you guys are doing is you're bringing in the sugar beet industry, which is a very small, overall very small market, a specialty crop but you're bringing it up to speed with the rest of the ag industry with the ISOBUS connections and all of that type of stuff. It's really intriguing to me, I love the sugar beet industry.
I know there's a lot of people out there have a love-hate relationship with the sugar beet industry because of-- If you've ever seen sugar beet harvest, you would understand what we're talking about here. There can be some rough long nights here and there but I love the sugar beet industry. It's so cool to see you guys bringing this technology into the industry and it's not just a traditional manual process anymore. Now the last thing I want to give you the opportunity to talk about is your beet cart. That's your third piece of the puzzle. You guys have a very unique beet cart and with Amity. Tell us a little bit about that.
Michael: Absolutely. The beet cart is- it was a later addition to the puzzle. Harvester and the defoliator have been around in some form or fashion again, defoliating the beets and then lifting the beets and cleaning them, and then transporting generally to trucks. They've been around in some fashion for the past many many years, decades. The beet cart was a new addition and it changed a little bit of the thinking because instead of just being, defoliator to take the tops off, the harvester to pick the beets and clean them and then drop them in a truck. It's all now it's more about efficiency that's where the beet cart came in, and really does shine is that in that overall efficiency of the harvest operation.
You're talking about that a second ago, Tony, how harvest happens, it's ideally 24 hours a day for a 10-day window here in the Red River Valley, so there's no time for shutdowns or breakdowns or anything like that. The beet cart really comes in where it doesn't matter how-- it does, to an extent but not overly some of the field conditions, you don't have to pull trucks to the field and the goal is to keep the harvester moving. You're only lifting beets if you're truly lifting beets out of the ground by keeping that harvester moving.
The beet cart was one where it's only available on tracks so you have nice flotation through the field, you're able to load one truck at a minimum with this overall the capacity of the cart and then it also unloads quickly, you really need to get that thing unloaded quickly and get back to the harvester so that you can keep that one harvester moving and ideally the two beet carts so that you have that system where again you have one defoliator, one harvester and two beet carts and that allows for that harvester to move quickly, efficiently and gets the beets out of the ground is as easy as possible.
Tony: Yes, that is one thing that has always impressed me about your guys' beet cart is the speed at which that thing unloads. That is unreal. The beet cart is one of those things that it should be looked at as in no way different than a grain cart. The grain cart, the goal of the grain cart is to keep that combine moving, you're dumping the trucks on the headlands. The beet cart is the same way traditionally, a lot of people looked at it as we only needed a beet cart in wet conditions but from an efficiency standpoint, there's an opportunity to be running your beet cart year-round, no matter if it's wet or dry.
That being said, the beet cart is not the only cart that you are the only commodity moving device that you guys are working on. So tell us a little bit about the crop chaser.
Michael: The crop chaser is a newer product line only within the last couple years your newer product line to Amity, we were actually approached by customers for a demand for this and it works. It's a crop cart that it works independent of- it's not just a sugar beet cart. For example, in this case, we actually focused on silage. Corn silage is one of the main roles for this cart.
However, at that same point, it's a cart that doesn't really care too much what you put into it, as long as it's not overweight or over volume, you should be able to lift and dump it. The overall [unintelligible 00:18:40] machine concept is it's actually more similar to a dump cart in some ways, but it also has a live bottom floor chain to really allow for the control of the unloading of the machine.
Again, it doesn't really matter what commodity you put it in and we're still learning this is a relatively new product line for us and one that even this fall even continuing testing we are releasing it and letting public knowledge that we're working on this so we can talk about today but we also are continuing testing and have just a limited amount of production capacity for this machine into the near future here but we are really excited about it really excited about the potential. Again, Commodity-wise corn silage, sugar beets, shelled corn, alfalfa, edible beans, there's potential in all sorts of areas for this cart. We found success stories even just this fall from farmers using it and all those commodities as well.
Tony: That's awesome to see Amity taking the initiative to find more solutions, different solutions for many different things, not just the traditional sugar beet industry anymore. You guys are looking beyond that as well, per customer requests. It's really cool to hear. Now with the defoliator, the harvester, the beet cart now the crop chaser, any of the products that you guys have to offer. Do you have any sort of a success story that you'd like to share with our listeners that at the end of the day when this was done, it really put a smile on your face?
Michael: The first one that comes to mind really from a little bit from the engineering standpoint is it comes from listening to customers. Tony, you probably remember this too in 2019, the sugar beet harvest, especially in the Red River Valley here was beyond challenging. It was very, very wet conditions, muddy, sloppy, very few beets were taken out of the ground even until the month of October, they were harvesting into November, which is not common for this area.
We were also working concurrently on the development of the 2720 harvester prior to releasing it that next year. I distinctly remember the day when our owner came in the door and asked if we could put tracks on a harvester. It was very late in the game, but our engineering team got to work, sat down, and within 10 days we had a working prototype out in the field, solving some problems for a customer.
I'm very proud of what our group could do in the very short amount of time, but ultimately it was coming back to-- The drive was to solve the problem for the customer. It was a wet harvest. They had very little other choices at that moment in time. People are grabbing all sorts of things to try and help float their harvesters through the field. It made a big difference at the end of the day, and it really is really just a response to what the customers were seeing in the field that year. It definitely wasn't part of our product plan going into the fall of that year, but we got the job done.
Tony: That is awesome to hear Michael that, like you said, "It's all due to customer response." That speaks volumes about the Amity organization and what they're doing in the industry and listening to customers feedback and providing solutions that make a difference in the field. It's really awesome to hear that story and kind of how it all came together. Now, if somebody wants to learn more about any of these products we've talked about or about Amity Technology as a company, where can they go? Who can they talk to?
Michael: The standard, Facebook, Twitter, our website, that's amitytech.com is one of the best places to talk to there. Otherwise just give us a call. We have a sales and marketing product specialist in the lake already to take the call if anyone has any more questions.
Tony: Awesome. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to sit down with me today, Michael. I always enjoy learning about the sugar beet industry. Like I said, I love the sugar beet industry. I love what you guys are doing at Amity technology. Keep up the great work and thanks again.
Michael: Thanks, Tony.
Tony: Thanks again for tuning into another episode. If you have questions about the technology and products discussed or have ideas about future episodes, please leave them in the comments below. You can also subscribe to RDO's YouTube channel and be in the know about each episode, or tune in on any streaming service. Thanks again for listening.