Designed with a clean sheet of paper from the ground-up, Agco’s Ideal combine has intrigued potential users since its unveiling last year. Approximately five years of development and R&D investment totalling hundreds of millions of dollars means it has to be good enough to challenge current top brands for a share of the market. David Williams tried it out.
“Design engineers were given a pair of 800/70R32 wheels and told that whatever they designed had to fit between the two when the overall width was 3.3m,” explained Fendt demonstrator Ant Risdon. “Apart from that there were few restrictions.”
Early test machines were tried in a wide range of operating conditions, including in the UK where they were dressed up as older Massey Ferguson models. In early August the first demonstration machines arrived in the UK, and have been available for selected potential customers to see in action through a small number of dealers.
There are three models; the Ideal 7, Ideal 8 and Ideal 9 – the number indicating the size class in line with other main brands. All are available as ‘T’ versions with tracks, or wheels.
The chassis is shared between all three models and power is from AgcoPower and MAN engines.
Threshing and separation
All models are rotary and the Ideal 7 has a single rotor, and the two larger models have double rotors. An innovative but simple threshing and cleaning system has been designed around the longest rotors in the industry (4.84m) for class-leading threshing, separation and cleaning performance with minimal damage and losses and low fuel consumption.
From the intake elevator crop is fed through to the rotors through the RotorFeeder feeding drum. This operates at a 70 per cent fixed speed ratio to the rotor, ensuring even flow for threshing. A large intake area and optimum speed matching keeps straw intact and saves fuel.
The Helix processor has rasp bars and rotor tines in four rows. The front section has four rasp bars installed lengthways which loosen grains from the ears. Below the threshing and separation zones of the rotors is an ingenious double grain pan system called IdealBalance. Produced from heavy duty plastic, the two pans are specifically shaped to deliver the threshed crop onto the front and centre of the grain pan where it is processed by the preparation floor and the cleaning shoe. Larger material continues along the rotor through a separation system with 20-degree rear-angled tines and, as material drops through onto the second grain pan, it is channelled to the outside sections of the preparation and cleaning shoe.
The shaped grain pans have channels to direct the grain where needed, concave at the front directing grain to the centre and convex at the rear, feeding the outer edges.
Combined with the Helix rotors, the IdealBalance system is key to the combine’s performance and maintains even cross flow making the most of the 2.5m wide separating and cleaning area, and is relatively unaffected by cross-slopes up to 15 degrees, reducing losses which can occur when sieves are unevenly loaded.
A new Cyclone Cleaning System contributes to efficient cleaning and uses three hydraulically-driven fans capable of operating between 250–1,400rpm. The powerful airflow is split from the first drop stage so that flow pressure and volume remains even along the entire shaker shoe length.
Most short straw and chaff is separated when threshed material is dropped from the preparation floor to the intermediate floor, and the second drop sees further separation. Sieves are divided into six longitudinal sections or channels with high divisions between. Sieve opening is electrically adjusted from the cab.
Grain is transferred to the tank by standard 140t/hr or optional 200t/hr elevators.
Losses are detected at the end of the shaker shoe using sensors monitoring pressure and sound.
Gentle crop handling leaves long straw ideal for baling in a narrow, even swath but for those chopping straw options include 56- or 112-knife straw choppers. Chopped straw is distributed across the full width of the header by a straw spreader, and the demonstration machine had optional ActiveSpread – comprising twin hydraulic spreader rotors with electrical spread pattern adjustment.
All Ideals have large grain tanks with rapid emptying as standard. Tank capacity is 12,500 litres and 140-litres/sec emptying, or optional 17,100 litres capacity and 210-litres/sec unloading.
Hydraulic grain floor flaps adjust unloading rate. Emptying a full 17,500-litre tank can be achieved in just over 80 seconds.
PowerFlow tables are standard, in four widths up to 12.2m. All except the base 7.7m version are SuperFlow, with a new larger 760mm diameter auger. Height sensors at the front maintain accurate knife height and hydraulic table angle adjustment allows precise ground contour following.
The optional AutoDock table coupling system couples or de-couples the table lock, driveshafts, electrics and hydraulics in under five seconds.
The VisionCab is all new and shared with the latest Rogator sprayers. Controls are similar to Fendt tractors, including a large 10.4in, crystal-clear VarioTerminal touch-screen and multi-function joystick. A second, smaller display provides essential operating information at a glance.
Almost 6m2 of glass windows and narrow pillars provide an almost uninterrupted 180-degree view.
A unique feature is Idealharvest. This provides advanced information and driver aids and comprises an iPad running an App, connected wirelessly to the machine.
First test drive
Farmers Guide tried the Fendt Ideal 8 with a 10.7m header harvesting a thick wheat crop on rolling Oxfordshire hills with some steep slopes providing a good test for IdealBalance.
After heavy rain the previous day, early harvested grain was at over 19 per cent, but by lunchtime it had dropped to 15.
The cab is spacious and comfortable with plenty of legroom for the 6ft 3in driver, and Fendt instructor occupying the passenger seat.
Despite the seat being set well back, the full table width was visible through the panoramic front screen.
Controls are well laid out and any operator used to Fendt tractors will feel immediately at home. Large rocker switches start the drum and table, the engine revs are set by an orange rotary dial and hydrostatic transmission provides progressive movement as soon as a button behind the joystick is depressed and the stick pushed forward. Speed control is precise, but for even greater control a creep mode is selectable for tight manoeuvres or lining up to the table.
The test machine had GPS mapping and autosteer and when it was approximately lined up for the bout, the joystick-mounted autosteer button was pressed and the system took over. Table height was set and memorised for automatic return and pressing the height control button on the joystick for two seconds then releasing it, caused the table to descend.
HarvestPlus automatic speed control allows throughput to be set and maintained. Similar to cruise control; once set the user pushes and holds the joystick to the right until the indicator flashes on the control panel. The joystick is released and the management system constantly monitors throughput, speeding up when the crop is thinner and slowing down as denser growth is encountered. The large demonstration field’s steep slopes provided an excellent test, and the speed adjusted frequently to compensate for differences in crop volume. “Because our sensors maintain a constant working load, they sense immediately the crop volume changes and this maximises productivity, but also means losses are significantly reduced,” explained Anthony. “Traditional systems monitoring grain loss at the rear assist operators, but by the time users respond, grain has already been lost and can’t be recovered.”
With HarvestPlus and autosteer activated, full attention could be given to watching the header and the table conveyor efficiently transferred cut crop from the knife to the large auger, feeding it heads first into the intake elevator. The 11t/ha wheat crop fed smoothly without bunching in the centre, so that even feeding and rotor loading was maintained.
A clever feature is automatic table raising if a hazard is encountered. Previously popular on Fendt and Massey Ferguson combines, this responds to the operator quickly pulling back the joystick, by raising the table clear of the ground. When the stick is pushed forward again, the table automatically lowers.
At the headlands a nudge on the joystick disconnected automatic speed control and travel speed reduced. Two quick presses on the header lift button raised it clear of the ground.
Grain tank contents are monitored on the smaller display, and the auger is extended by flicking a circular dial on the bottom left of the joystick face. When the trailer is in position the dial is depressed until it clicks and unloading starts. The combine operator can assist the trailer driver by swinging the auger forward or backwards while unloading for fine adjustment. Pressing the dial stops the flow and flicking it to the right brings the auger back in.
The demonstration machine was equipped with Idealharvest which uses the iPad to monitor and adjust performance.
Priority selection is made using a triangular image with Losses, Cracked grains and Mog (material other than grain), in the three corners. The user drags the selector towards whichever performance priorities are needed, or leaves it central for all-round optimisation.
A camera records images of every paddle load of grain delivered by the clean grain elevator, and the system detects broken or cracked grains and chaff or un-threshed heads, and threshing and cleaning performance adjusts automatically.
Because the iPad is connected by wi-fi, the swath can be checked and adjustments made from outside, without operator intervention. For less experienced operators this means a farm manager could check swath for losses or un-threshed grain, and adjust threshing performance while checking the image from the grain quality camera on the screen, and re-check the swath without entering or leaving the cab.
Usually though, the iPad is kept in a holder on the control panel where the operator can watch the performance graphs and camera image and alter performance priorities when needed.
The Ideal proved operator-friendly and by the end of the 45-minute test-drive all basic controls had become familiar. The Varioterminal is intuitive with menus which are easy to select and use and the iPad offers new standards of flexibility. Harvested grain quality was excellent with low damage, losses were negligible and straw was intact with very little damage making it ideal for baling. The cab is comfortable and quiet, there is little shaking or vibration and visibility is superb. Listening to comments from farmers who tried the combine; almost all were complimentary, impressed with the performance achieved, the ease of use and the relatively simple design.