With apologies to the late Ed Sullivan, I must say Agritechnica – an international agricultural equipment trade show in Hanover, Germany – is a “really, really, really big shew!”
As agricultural markets have risen along with global grain prices, most of the more than 2,100 exhibitors from 36 nations are in an upbeat mood at the prospect of at least several years of improving fortunes in agriculture. During the two preview days for Agritechnica, usually reserved for corporate and media examination, thousands of farmers, from both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific came to see what’s new in ag technology. Preview days tickets sell for 69 Euros (or, about $100), and the same visit during the show’s regular schedule is $20 Euros. So, many farmers have money to spend and are looking at new equipment this week in Hanover. The unexpectedly large crowds swamped exhibitors Sunday and Monday, as officials were privately rearranging their predictions of more than 250,000 paid attendance at show which runs through the 17th.
Overall, Agritechnica’s exhibitor list is up 35% this year, and the booth spaces aren’t miniscule. For instance, U.S. machinery giant John Deere had 148 employees and dealers staffing its “booth”. In the same building, European forage harvester-maker Claas had more than an acre filled in its name. A dozen or more shuttle buses ran continually on a five-minute schedule outside between the 16 buildings.
This year’s Agritechnica focused on soil conservation, biotechnology, robotics, maintenance and service, and a building filled with used equipment. In addition, several acres of outdoor spaces were devoted to the timber industry and all things related to the harvest and handling of wood. In fact, one of the most popular streets on the show grounds – on a blustery, rainy, cold German afternoon -- was one populated on both sides with displays of operating wood stoves. The aroma of the smoke blended well with the brats and other goodies from a host of nearby food vendors.
The push to soil conservation was evident by scores of one-pass planting and cultivation equipment. Air-seeders in various colors and sizes – some impossible to photograph entirely without extreme elevation – were coupled with a host of parabolic plows of all sizes and designs, pointing out the move to less surface disturbance, even if deep tillage is required.
In the tractor area, diesel engines using computer-controlled common rail induction and breathing through four valves per cylinder were the stars of the show. And, if you could offer “100% Biodiesel” compatibility you garnered even more interest for your exhibit. In all cases, reduced fuel consumption, reduced emissions, and more efficiency at lower engine speeds were the catchword of the day.
The belief in human kind’s guilt for global warming is a nearly universally held credo in Europe, and nearly every OEM manufacturer involved at Agritechnica has something to say about his or her product and how it will help reduce agriculture’s overall effect on the environment. Because of the emphasis placed on reducing greenhouse gases, we noticed a number of small engine builders’ who are already producing Tier IV compliant power plants. And, with the increasing cost of petroleum-based fuels, at least one off-road diesel engine builder sees economic sense in adding “emission reducing” technology with additives injected into the exhaust stream between the regular catalytic converter and second “cat” designed to filter nearly 100% of Nitrous Oxide out of the final breath of each stroke. Until now fuel costs and emission standards have not been high enough to bring such technology out of highway diesels and into the farm field – but this year Valtra tractors will go afield with the cleaner exhaust.
Overall, exhibitors and visitors alike seemed bullish on agriculture in the short term. Grain prices, driven by the bio-fuel industry, and a growing Eastern European and Asian market seem to have Europe in a bubbly mood. Most European equipment makers, however, are not too interested in the U.S. market at the moment, since the current U.S. Dollar is trading at about 70% of the value of the Euro, a situation which makes European goods very expensive when purchased with Greenbacks.