The Agritechnica machinery show in Germany, which takes place every two years, has its own set of Tractor of the Year awards. A group of European journalists pick what they collectively think are the best tractors in each of four different categories, including best field tractor, best utility, best speciality and best overall design.
This is a competition the Europeans take pretty seriously. The judging panel is made up of 24 ag machinery journalists, and the evaluation process involves more than a cursory inspection. Evaluations start in May and run for a few months through the summer.
This year 22 tractors were entered and each actually underwent a series of field trials at 14 different locations that put more than 100 hours on each of their clocks. The number of entries speaks to the value of such a prize for manufacturers.
“Only field tests give the judges the ability to properly test the tractors,” Fabio Sammaretti, the TOTY chairman, said during the awards presentation ceremony in Hanover, Germany. “This is a contest, and in the end there can only be one winner.”
Well, in this case, four actually.
“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve seen this year in innovations,” said Paulo Pomei, president of tire manufacturer Trelleborg. (That brand was one of the award sponsors.) “These awards can be considered the Oscars of the agricultural industry.”
Italian manufacturer ARGO’s McCormick X6 440 VT Drive tractor won in the utility class. McCormick introduced the line here early in 2017, with their CVT transmission giving the brand a model to compete with upmarket competitors.
But undoubtedly AGCO was the big winner in the TTOY competition this year. Its new T254 Smart Touch Valtra won in both the general category and best design awards. (The best design award winner is picked from the finalist machines in each of the other categories.)
The T254 is packed with cool features, such as a heads-up windshield display for gauges that Canadian farmers can read about, but for the moment cannot buy.
AGCO discontinued distribution of its Valtra line in North America several years ago, but these new features will likely bleed into tractors in the brand’s other lines — eventually. That’s been the case with most of the technologies so far.
AGCO’s 112-hp, vineyard Fendt 211 Vario V picked up the Best of Specialized award. We don’t get that one here in Canada either.
We may not pick a tractor of the year here in North America, but there are a variety of awards handed out to equipment manufacturers on this side of the Atlantic as well. And one of the most prestigious is the Good Design award given out by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design. It isn’t always won by a farm equipment manufacturer. So when it is, that’s something for a brand to brag about.
This year Case IH’s autonomous Magnum tractor took one of them back to the brand headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin. Caterpillar can also lay claim to one of these awards from many years ago when it launched the Challenger 65, the first belted ag tractor.
The Magnum was revealed to the public two years ago and has since been on a global odyssey, appearing at a variety of farm machinery shows on different continents. It was originally billed as a “concept study” and the brand invited farmer feedback. Apparently, it got just that.
“From talking to customers in different countries, we see that for the near term, they want to have the flexibility of still having a cab on the tractor. This is the direction we are taking because we want our customers to feel comfortable as they begin to delegate more tasks to the machines,” said Andreas Klauser, Case IH Brand president in a press release.
So despite putting out an award-winning design, the autonomous Magnum will need to change form before it sees commercial production.
In February, also watch for news from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), which is announcing its full list of the 50 agricultural machinery engineering design winners that will get an AE50 award. The list of winners is unveiled at their annual convention that coincides with the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky.