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Never tired of improvement

New combine technology demonstrated to the press at a UK event in late August promises optimal performance and crop quality, even with an inexperienced operator in the seat. David Williams reports. The most conscientious combine operator can probably achieve a very slightly better result than John Deere’s new technical aid on its latest combine, but only for a short period until he becomes tired, while John Deere’s system continues to re-evaluate performance and settings every few seconds, 24 hours per day. Several manufacturers offer automated set up, requiring the operator to tell the machine’s system the type of crop, from which initial settings are made, but then rely on the user to fine tune settings throughout the day to keep performance optimised. John Deere’s new ‘interactive combine adjustment’ (ICA2) is the first to not only constantly evaluate performance, but also make any changes it deems necessary to optimise output. The previous HarvestSmart performance optimisation system remains a key part of the system monitoring engine loading and rotor pressure to keep the machine at maximum operating load.

Picture-perfect result Four new S700 series models have the technology available. The user sets key performance parameters; prioritising

High definition cameras are key to the process.

output, grain quality, losses, or sample quality. Like previous systems the user first enters the crop type, then cutting conditions and required straw quality (baled or chopped) and initial settings are made. As soon as crop enters the combine, standard parameters including losses are monitored but the magic component in John Deere’s new system is a pair of high-definition cameras, which constantly photograph and analyse samples from the clean grain and returns elevators. Software assesses grain cleanliness and quality and identifies cracked or broken grains and the sample is refreshed every few seconds. Harvested crop information is displayed on the new GSD4600 touch-screen and the operator sets a required standard for each measurement area for the combine to High definition cameras provide an image of grain passing through the clean grain and returns elevators while software analyses the sample in seconds.

p John Deere’s new S700 series combines offer full automation of settings throughout the working day allowing the operator to concentrate on the header and fleet logistics. u The new combines have a new CommandArm control panel complete with the CommandPro joystick from flagship 6R tractors.

meet or exceed. The operator is kept up-to-date with any changes and any settings altered are highlighted in blue on the screen and after a while turn black as they become permanent. This allows users to remain in full control and override any changes deemed unsuitable. John Deere points out that, throughout the day, crop quality changes as well as when working different areas of the same field. Also, from when the crop dries from early to mid-morning, it then becomes damp again later on but, whereas an alert driver will become tired after a day in the seat, ICA2 remains just as effective. Leaving the operator to concentrate on the field and crop with just an eye to the screen to monitor progress means users become less fatigued during typical long working days.

Any driver-same result The new technology also means that if the usual experienced operator isn’t available then someone with only basic knowledge can achieve a similar result. “A very experienced operator can probably achieve a very slightly better result and higher productivity,” explained John Deere managing director Jonathan Henry at the event. Before moving to the UK Jonathan spent the past two years involved with global crop harvesting machinery, while based in the US. “Sourcing skilled labour is a challenge globally and machine automisation is an exciting step for us. Many users are guided totally by the loss monitor, but conditions change every 20 minutes or so during a typical harvesting day which means after 20 minutes’ harvesting, performance is no longer being optimised and after 2hrs

performance could be 15–20 per cent below optimum. The result remains acceptable but making the most of the productivity available is a big benefit. When we work with farmers to monitor operators and machines using Remote Display Access (RDA) we see great variation in operating efficiency. Some are close to optimum but other machines work well below their potential and this shows where training would benefit. The new automation means the combine can work to within five per cent of what a top operator can achieve when he is alert, but even the best drivers become tired.”

Performance beyond A demonstration of the new combine in Leicestershire wheat allowed the system’s capabilities to be demonstrated, but an issue was that when left to its own devices the combine’s rate of work became so fast there was little time between headland turns to experiment with the changes to settings. So individual areas for improvement were selected and images from the on-board cameras, displayed on the touchscreen, allowed results to be assessed within just a few seconds. John Deere explained that users who have tried ICA2 have been as excited about the images generated as they have about the full automation, continued over...

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