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Look, Kub's talking - TIM system allows the baler to communicate with and control the tractor,

In addition to general farm management, there would appear to be two separate, but complimentary, strands emerging in the drive to apply digital technology to agriculture and agricultural machinery in particular.

The first is the increasing sophistication of tractors, with many functions now capable of being automated or controlled to a far finer degree than before, in conjunction with a greater ability to transmit tractor-generated data directly to the farm office.

The second applies to the implements, which are currently being raised from their lowly status of rather dumb tools to decision-making partners of the tractor itself, and leading the way is Kubota, which is the first manufacturer to be awarded certification from the Agricultural Electronics Foundation (AEF).

The AEF, which was founded by seven leading manufactures in 2008, has been driving the adoption and development of ISOBUS as the main protocol for communication within and between farm machinery. One founding member, Kverneland, was acquired by Kubota and it is this Japanese company that has adopted a unique approach to the digital side of technology.

The average age of the Japanese farmer is 67 and so rather than load the tractors with sophisticated gadgetry, the company has instead sought to alleviate the operator's workload by melding the tractor and implement into one unified machine, just as the combine harvester evolved from reapers and threshers. The difference here is the power unit and implement still remain as separate items and communicate via ISOBUS.

The first fruit of this rationale is the pairing of the M7003 series of tractors with the top end BV5 range of balers and it is this combination which has won the approval of the AEF, which has 150 members and associates worldwide.

The AEF refers to this system of 'bilateral communication' as Tractor Implement Management or TIM for short, and anything thus labelled will have the ability to talk to other machines so equipped, irrespective of the manufacturer.

With TIM, the baler is able to control the tractor's speed and even bring it to a halt as the bale is wrapped and ejected, functions which it is also able to manage, thus ensuring a consistent bale density as the decision as to when to finish bale formation relies entirely on sensors rather than the driver's preferences.

However, this may not be the ideal situation in every case, for dropping bales on a steep slope or directly opposite a gateway will detract from the overall usefulness of the system, so full automation is still some way off.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, John Deere is busy promoting a system by which data from the field displays of the most popular tractor makes can be downloaded to its own operation centre. This underlines the difference in philosophy of the two companies '- complex tractors and mega-data V. simplicity and operating aids for the smaller grower. It's shaping up to be another choice for farmers to face!

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