A Breath of Fresh Air for Agriculture
Technological innovations help in the fight against climate change
The sweet smell of fresh country air is something we’re all familiar with and that’s certainly how it should stay, but it’s not that easy. The human race is growing and growing and growing – and hunger with it. The United Nations estimate that by 2030, the world will need to feed around 8.5 billion people. More and more harvests will be needed, and in shorter and shorter cycles.
That’s why dealing sustainably with resources is urgently necessary not only in urban environments but also wherever Mother Nature allows our foodstuffs to thrive. Exhaust-gas aftertreatment, consumption-reducing tire technology and anticipatory maintenance are just some of the options. Discover some more as we take a look closer look at a challenging industry.
Time’s up for polluters
“A tractor with one cylinder is always enough.” Engineer Fritz Huber’s quote is now legendary among experts on the subject. This is because almost one hundred years ago, Huber built the Lanz Bulldog engine, which defined modern agricultural industry in the first half of the 20th century, as engine power began to replace horses and oxen.
The Lanz Bulldog was undoubtedly a milestone – an iron draft horse that played a considerable part in making farm work easier and in increasing yields. But that was a long time ago and the design of the hot-bulb engine with internal carburation and low compression was a polluting two-stroke engine that was actually an extremely powerful, distant cousin of the Trabant. While in the past it had to be started by heating the hot bulb in the cylinder head using a blowtorch, today there’s no time for such procedures.
Modern high-performance tractors are geared for pure power. They have 40 or more forward gears or even continuously variable transmissions, average engine output of 100, or 300, hp and more is not unusual, all-wheel drive is standard. At the same time, efficiency and environmental awareness are also taken into account. While the Lanz Bulldog tractor increasingly gets astonished looks on vintage vehicle runs and produces even more blue exhaust gases, today everything is done to keep the air as clean as possible.
Country Air Should Be Cleaner
The new Euro V emissions standard is coming into force from 2019. It affects all kinds of non-road machines, primarily agricultural and construction machinery and tightens the previously applicable exhaust gas regulation. The aim of the specification is fewer nitrogen oxide and soot emissions, which can be achieved only with new ideas and technologies.
If you look at industry trends, you can see that tractors are increasingly being used as machines in cities or as construction machines, for example. This also changes the conditions surrounding efficient exhaust-gas aftertreatment. This is because while a tractor engine is operating close to the design ideal when plowing a field, clearing snow in the city is hardly more strenuous for the engine than idling. An exhaust-gas aftertreatment must function reliably in changing situations.
Continental is introducing two solutions to cater to these requirements. Firstly, a metallic catalyst substrate, which enables oval and even asymmetrical design types, forms the basis for catalytic converter systems that are mounted directly on the engine. Secondly, a ring catalyst enables well integrated development of a complete exhaust-gas aftertreatment in a single container. Both strategies – the attachment close to the engine and the standardized box – result in effective and cost-efficient cleaning of exhaust gas, and cover the many areas of application for tractors.
Exhaust-gas aftertreatment is becoming increasingly challenging
Modern catalysts are based on complex technologies in a very small space. This includes selective catalytic reduction of nitrogen oxide in addition to oxidation catalysts and a particulate filter, and the injection of a necessary reduction agent together with sensors and actuators. If you want to place all of this near to the engine, a compact design is crucial.
“The more compact an exhaust-gas aftertreatment is, the easier it is to integrate in a wide variety of different applications,” says Rolf Brück, head of Catalysts Product Line, in the Continental Fuel & Exhaust Management business unit. “Our ring catalyst makes it possible to position the catalyst around a particulate filter. Today, the solutions to the space problem are better than ever. They even create enough space for a second injection of the reduction agent. A second injection of this kind helps to almost completely convert nitrogen oxide even under full load.”
“Clean air technology is here – it just needs to be used.”
Rolf Brück, head of Catalysts Product Line in Fuel & Exhaust Management
Environmentally Friendliness on Track for Success
Efficiency in agriculture has many aspects that contribute to increased sustainability:
1. Increase in Productivity Goes Ahead
Tires transmit the power of a tractor to the terrain. Continental’s new premium radial tires now provide more tractive force out on the field and help protect the ground at the same time. Good tractive force increases the efficiency of the fuel used by up to 15 percent. When the soil and crops are disturbed as little as possible, this also ensures higher yields. Continental N.flex technology is based on a flexible nylon material for the carcass that is much more stretchable than other materials. At the same time, tires with N.flex technology are extremely robust, in order to minimize tire damage and the associated maintenance and downtimes.
As important as a tire’s flexibility is also the optimized slip, meaning the intensity of the contact between the tire and the ground. For instance: The driver of the tractor achieves maximum power transmission when a vehicle is traveling straight ahead with tire slip of 10 to 15 percent. If the slip increases to 35 percent, for example, tractor operating costs can rise by up to 23 percent when the tractor is driven at an average speed of 7 km/h over an assumed agricultural area of 300 hectares. This increase in consumption puts a strain not only on the farmer’s yields, but also on the environment. Modern tractor tires prevent this as they support the optimal level of tractive force and slip.
Forward-looking tire technologies also offer us more sustainability.
2. Machines Must Run
Idle machines cost farmers a lot of money. Especially during sowing and harvesting periods, when everything always has to happen at the ideal time, down to the hour and minute, this is a tremendous nuisance. A potential solution in the future is the targeted monitoring of components, for which Continental is combining products and systems with innovative sensor technology. Anticipatory maintenance recognizes impending failures early on and, in doing so, prevents downtime. Here the focus is on prevention in order to increase operational dependability. However, monitoring still needs further development in the medium-term. Customers could then use the acquired data to further optimize their efficiency using additional services offered by connectivity and digitalization.
3. Fighting Wear with Sensors
Not everything revolves around tires: Rubber crawler tracks with sensor technology are among Continental’s latest technological highlights. This sensor technology enables the measuring and monitoring of the carcass temperature of rubber crawler tracks during use on vehicles, which then makes it possible to extend the vehicle’s service life and eliminate the need for unplanned repairs. This is particularly relevant for traveling on asphalt, as the rubber crawler tracks are particularly susceptible to wear on this surface. The driver is warned of upcoming critical phases in good time by a signal in the cab.
4. Time Savings and Comfort Benefits for the Driver
Agriculture is physically demanding work. Therefore, anything that helps to achieve the meticulously planned targets in the fields as efficiently as possible is very welcome. The more relaxed the driver is when working, the better it goes – ideally in a driver workstation that is ergonomically adapted to be perfect. The modular driver workstation by Continental can be designed flexibly around the driver’s needs. All switches are positioned within reach, so that the driver can concentrate on driving and on the work processes. A minimalistic design is just as possible as the premium version with cameras, multimedia applications and displays such as the MultiViu Professional12 instrument cluster that surrounds the drivers and provides them with information about all their work steps in real time. Furthermore, intelligent air spring technology makes it possible to control and electronically adjust the height of the vehicle and attachments from the cab, which quickens processes considerably. Hydraulically damped cab mounts ensure fewer vibrations so that the driver is still comfortable even at the end of a long day. This added comfort also contributes to efficiency.
Mr. Duensing, in a word
Mr. Duensing, as a member of the Continental Executive Board, you are also responsible for agricultural and construction machinery. What challenges do you see for agriculture in particular?
Like many other industries, agriculture is very competitive. Digitalization, connectivity and automation are creating huge potential in the agricultural economy as well. For farmers and for us, data is the seed for the future. The resulting optimism and determination are palpable in the industry.
How do you assess the efforts for increased sustainability in agriculture?
These efforts are essential for our company but of course involve additional effort, too. For example, new emissions standards are worthwhile challenges for us all. We are prepared for this with our innovations in the field of catalysts.
The key phrase is clean air – where do you see the greatest potential in agricultural technology?
The sum of all innovations includes fuel-efficient drives or the increased service life of tires. Furthermore, in the future the data from agricultural machinery will be the key to lower emissions and anticipatory maintenance concepts. They increase efficiency, reduce idle time and enhance operational dependability.
With your personal practical experience in agriculture, how does it look? Have you driven a tractor before?
My grandparents had a farm. So as a boy I was enthusiastic about driving tractors. However, I wasn’t allowed to drive a tractor by myself because I was too young and didn’t have a driver’s license. Since then, I’ve dreamed of driving a tractor myself. I hope to have the option to do so at the next opportunity.
Did you know?
The world’s most important industry in a few figures. Find out more about the fascinating world of agriculture.
A third of all working people worldwide are employed in agriculture.
The average size of a farm is around 1 hectare in Asia and almost 190 hectares in the United States.
In years of drought, organic farming records 31 percent higher yields. It consumes 45 percent less energy and emits 40 percent fewer greenhouse gases.
Ireland organically farms almost exactly the same area as Russia does, at approximately 40,000 hectares each.
Around 26.7 million hectares of land worldwide have been acquired by investors for agricultural purposes since 2000 – an area as large as the United Kingdom and Slovenia combined.
Organically farmed land has on average 34 percent more types of plants, insects and animals than conventional farming.
20 cultivated plant types currently make up 90 percent of humanity’s crops.
Twelve types of plants and five types of animal provide 70 percent of the human diet.
In Fiji, 84 percent of the production of yams, rice, cassava, corn and beans comes from small farmers on just 47.4 percent of the land.
In 2015, around 15 percent of European farmers brought more than half of their products directly to consumers, which is a growing trend.
Clean, pure air in fields all over the world is more than just a vision. It should be an obligation for all of us because it is only with a healthy environment that we can generate the yields necessary for a sufficient diet. Therefore, it is particularly important to reduce emissions such as nitrogen oxide and soot particles. There are many key parameters on the machinery in agricultural technology, which supply all of us with their constant rhythm of sowing and harvesting.
Innovative solutions from a single source for more efficiency in agriculture – find out more here.
Continental Magazine Issue 2/2017