Innovation for the sake of innovation is not enough, whatever process or tools are used, they should be versatile. This is especially evident in farming. When optimisation and versatility meet, problems are not only solved but improve the work of millions of farmers across the world. Our first example of such an innovation takes us back to the 1830s.
Whether you call it the Combine Harvester-Thresher, Combine Harvester or simply Combine, its automation of several tedious processes makes it one of the best innovations in farming. But what exactly made it so special?
In the 1830s the Reaper was invented and helped automate harvesting, even for small grains which up until this time still had to be cut manually using a sickle. Yet onces the grain had been cut, farmers still needed to manually rake and bind the crop manually. This process was somewhat improved by 1857 with reapers that could pass the reaped crop to the back of the machine where the farmer sat and manually tied it into bundles. By 1881 a further step to automation was taken with the successful development of reapers that also could automatically tie the crop into bundles.
Similarly and equally important as the reaping of the crop, is the threshing. Separating the kernels from the straws too was a manual process, and took a long time even when animals were used as help. Kernels were manually knocked from the straws, raked and sieved. After many improvements this entire process too was automated. Taking these two processes and combining them into one machine, gives us the modern Combine Harvester-Thresher and can still today be found virtually on all farms.
Welcome to the 1920 United States. Up until this time many important innovations have been made, such as the threshing machine. Yet in this new post war area, a new feat of engineering optimization takes the throne.
The use of animals in agricultural production had been replaced by the first tractors some time back. This made work simpler and also allowed farmers to save a greater portion of their yield to be sold, which otherwise would have fed the horses who pulled the machinery. However, these tractors were bulky and heavy. As a result much of the work related to planting and cultivating row-crops was still done using horses. Tractor manufacturers had made attempts to produce tractors tailored for such work specifically. These were largely rejected by farmers. Paying big money for a tractor that serves a very limited use throughout the year was not an option for most farmers. Tractors need to be versatile.
The International Harvester company set out to solve this problem, and introduced the so-called Farmall in 1924. As given by its name, this new tractor could be used for a large variety of tasks from planting row crops, plowing to pulling heavy machines such as harvesters. Being a true all-purpose tractor, it managed to replace horses all together while being sold at an affordable price. Soon other manufacturers began producing tractors with the same capability which became the new standards on farms.
Versatility remains an important factor even on today’s farms and rightfully so. Farmers need accurate, reliable and fast services that help make their daily work easier at an affordable price. Thanks to modern technology, this has become possible. Instead of needing to invest in expensive equipment or lengthy and infrequent lab results, satellite data can combine everything farmers need to know in one app. The modern Combine doesn’t dwell in the fields, but scans them from above and delivers all data farmers need in real time, directly to one platform.
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