Mechanization issues: the rich agenda of the Club of Bologna
Rendezvous no. 29 for the experts of the Club of Bologna who in Hanover, on the occasion of Agritechnica, talked about sustainability, electrification and specialized forage machines. The thirtieth meeting of the association will be held in Bologna, during EIMA 2020, together with the IV edition of the Pellizzi Prize
Sixty-three university professors, researchers and manufacturers of agricultural machinery from 21 countries took part in the annual Club of Bologna meeting that took place in Hanover, Germany, as part of Agritechnica 2019 on November 10 and 11. “Agricultural mechanization and sustainability” is the general theme of the meeting - opened by the welcome greetings of the Presidents of FederUnacoma Alessandro Malavolti and of the Club Paolo Balsari - divided into three different sessions: “Agricultural machines - Sustainability assessment and circular economy”, “Potential for electrification in agricultural machinery” and “Specific Mechanization: machines for forage production and distribution”.
The first session - chaired by John Deere’s Peter Pickel - included three speeches. The first speech was by Giuseppe Gavioli - technical consultant - who introduced the basic aspects of sustainability in the production of agricultural vehicles. After explaining the negative repercussions on the environment in the production of goods, the speaker illustrated the urgent necessity to reprogram production cycles also in the agro-mechanical sector so as to avoid waste and reduce environmental impacts. In particular, the focus on achieving these goals will have to be on: materials used in manufacturing, re-generation of machines, sales of the product in the form of service, intelligent logistics and inventory management, collaboration with partners, and implementation of Artificial Intelligence. In his discussion, the speaker also emphasized the positive impact of these aspects on the health of various crops.
The second speech, prepared by Fabienne Seibold, Axel Kunz and Peter Pickel of John Deere, concerned “CO2 savings of agricultural machinery until 2030” and opened with a description of the actions taken in Germany to comply with national and international agreements concerning the reduction of CO2 emissions. In detail, the speaker presented the results of the EKoTech project, financed with public funds, for the cultivation of wheat, maize and forage - typical products of German agriculture - in farms subjected to in-depth management monitoring. The completed surveys provided information that was processed to forecast the rational use of production inputs (fuel in particular) on a national scale, while at the same time calculating the reduction of CO2 emissions between 2015 and 2030.
The third speech was by Muneji Okamoto of Kubota Corporation on how agricultural machinery and smart agriculture can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There is a need in the world to respond with increased productivity to the growing demand for food in many countries of Africa and Asia, in strong demographic expansion, and to find operational support for countries such as Japan where instead the population is decreasing. An increasingly smart agricultural mechanization can provide appropriate solutions, such as precision farming, that can minimize machine downtime, improve productivity and crop quality, as well as the automated operation of agricultural machinery. The manufacturers can then further contribute to sustainable development thanks to “total agriculture” solutions that also provide efficient and up-to-date after-sales support.
The second session chaired by Paolo Gay of the University of Turin also included three speeches. For the first one, John Deere’s Peter Pickel talked about the use of electricity for driving both tractors and coupled operating machines. To respond to the need to reduce emissions into the atmosphere, the agricultural machinery sector must also move towards the use of renewable energy sources. In this regard, there are many experiences gained over the last 15 years, above all when it concerns the use of electricity, which associates the optimization of control with a greater efficiency of actuator devices, in particular in the case of precision farming applications. However, at the moment and also for hybrid systems, the costs and technical problem of energy storage still remain high. The use of electrically driven mechanical vehicles can also foster experiences of circular economy on the farm, capable of self-producing electricity from locally available renewable sources, such as - for example - biomass. The electric drive of machinery will be in the near future the main driver for the implementation of tractor electrification.
For Stefano Fiorati, Alessandro Bernardini, Nicholas Hale, Paul Snauwaert, Francesca Protano (CNH Industrial), authors of the second speech, electric transmissions will become increasingly important in the field of agricultural machinery. With the current technology, the operators are now reaching the limits of optimization in terms of complexity and efficiency. However, in the near future, the orientation is focused on the interesting possibilities linked to electric propulsion. The manufacturers of agricultural machinery are investing many resources to test electric motors and batteries capable of replacing conventional and hydraulic propulsion over time. The duration of the batteries and the achievable performance in difficult operating conditions represent yet another open technological challenge. The combination of electric propulsion with endothermic engines in hybrid systems can certainly be an effective solution in the medium term and bring great benefits to the end user.
Manfred Auer, Stefan Igl, Karl Grad, of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, dedicated their third speech to the electric operation of tools and trailers, emphasizing how agricultural vehicles need a high traction capacity in conditions of soil with low adhesion associated with the limitation of the mass of the thrusters in order to contain soil compaction. According to the three authors, the market requires a modular system for multi-axle units. To this end, a survey was conducted on market demand and possible applications in order to develop the best solution within a possible technical kit. This led to the proposal of a modular system applicable in different situations that will significantly increase the possibilities of use and reduce production costs, which represent one of the main challenges of transmission system electrification.
The improvement and future prospects for forage production was the topic covered by Stefan Böttinger of the University of Hohenheim for the first speech of the third session, chaired by Peter Schulze Lammers of the University of Bonn. After a careful review of the statistical data available on the land allocated for forage crops and on its various types of products, Böttinger went on to explain how, to improve forage production, various aspects must be considered: qualitative improvement of the food, increased yields, and the availability of work sites specifically aimed at the production of silage instead of hay products. To improve the quality of the fresh product it is essential to optimize the cutting times; in particular the first seasonal cut must be made in 2-5 days, working at 5-7 cm in height. The production of corn silage can be optimized right from the shredder, with various solutions available on the market. The reduction of silage production costs is obtainable by optimizing all the segments of the machinery chain, such as the cutter-shredder-loader, the forage wagons used for transport, and the machines and equipment for farm storage. In this segment, a fundamental factor for obtaining the best production yields is gathering - while managing the various steps - a constant and adequate flow of information.
In the second speech, Philipp Mümken from Claas spoke about the future trends of hay and forage harvesting machinery. In order to adequately meet the need to produce milk of sufficient quality for market demands and at a final price that does not compromise the profitability of the producers, it is crucial that the first link in the chain, feeding the livestock, can count on effective techniques of forage harvesting that reduces nutritional losses and offers a high degree of reliability. In parallel with the optimization of the individual process phases - cutting, swathing and pressing, with particular attention to low product contamination - it is necessary to have a complete view of the mechanization chain by resorting to the digitalisation of the harvesting and the analysis of technical data and operational information.
Andrea Ugatti and Jacopo Ferlito of Faresin Industries presented the last report of session three, with a speech on the distribution of fodder and the evolution of total mixed ration (TMR), emphasizing how the highest cost in cattle breeding is food, which covers 45-65% of total expenses. But these costs depend only in part on those of the raw materials, being largely influenced by the correctness and efficiency of the food preparation and distribution process. The use of TMR contributes to this efficiency, providing for the whole herd a ration that is uniform in nutritional terms, while preserving the food’s property. This technology can optimize the production cycle, helping the operator with smart and sustainable operating options that let him monitor every phase of the process.
All the presentations are available on the website www.clubofbologna.org.
With regard to the Working Groups formed by the members of the Club of Bologna and recently established by the Management Committee - the Club’s deciding body - it was decided to set up a fourth group dedicated to the evaluation of incentives implemented throughout the world for the improvement of agricultural mechanization in different countries.
During the meeting, the recently deceased Oleg Marchenko, who was a Club member since its establishment, was commemorated. Ettore Gasparetto, Antoniotto Guidobono Cavalchini and Yoshisuke Kishida, colleagues and above all friends of Marchenko, outlined his personal and professional profile, highlighting his great humanity.
The next meeting of the Club of Bologna will be the thirtieth, and will be held at EIMA International 2020 on November 14 and 15. For the occasion there will be a special “celebratory” opening session, which will certainly outline the Club’s 30 years of activity, while also looking ahead to talk about the developments of agricultural mechanization in the coming years, in terms of sustainability. The topics of discussion will include the situation and prospects of the sector market and specialized machines for viticulture. The Pellizzi Prize will also return, an award established to commemorate and honour the memory of Giuseppe Pellizzi, creator of the Club, now in its fourth edition. The award includes a cash prize and access to the Club for the authors of the best and most innovative doctoral thesis on a mechanical/agricultural topic. Rendezvous at EIMA 2020!
by the editorial staff