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European agricultural machinery remains a driver of innovation and growth for global agriculture

When it comes to innovation and growth in global agriculture, there is no way around European agricultural machinery manufacturers. “Digital networking and climate-friendly drive concepts form the foundation for the agriculture of tomorrow. Nowhere is it clearer than at this Agritechnica that agricultural machinery is the key driver for the agriculture of the future,” said Dr. Tobias Ehrhard, Managing Director of the VDMA Agricultural Machinery Association, at the opening of the world’s leading trade fair for agricultural machinery, tractors and associated software systems.

Peak in the first half of the year

The agricultural machinery sector reached a peak at the middle of the year. With growth rates in the high double-digit range, the agricultural machinery manufacturers organized in the VDMA achieved half-year sales of a good 6 billion euros. “Once the supply bottlenecks caused by the pandemic and crisis had eased, the historically high order backlogs were gradually reduced,” explained Ehrhard.

Technologies that pay off

The VDMA is now relying on the Agritechnica effect: “Anyone who takes even a cursory glance at the unique portfolio that this trade fair has to offer will immediately recognize how many innovative technologies it contains to prepare agricultural businesses even better and more sustainably for a successful future,” said the Managing Director of the industry association.

Making more out of less

Farmers and contractors can only meet the demanding European sustainability targets with high-performance technology and efficient operational processes. “Achieving precise yields, or to put it even more simply: making more from less, is the promising approach for the arable farming of tomorrow,” emphasized Ehrhard.

The industry’s promise of efficiency is particularly great when it comes to sustainable methods for fertilization and crop protection. Spot farming, for example, is currently booming. State-of-the-art sensor, video and software technology ensures that plant protection products can be applied in real time and precisely according to the needs of the individual plant. “Thanks to this technology, literally nothing goes wrong with fertilizer application. Experts call it ‘boundary spreading’. This saves money and protects the environment,” summarized Ehrhard.

Up to 90 percent CO2 reduction

The decarbonization of agricultural machinery and tractor fleets also has positive environmental and climate effects. “Politicians must now set the framework conditions to ensure that biogenic and synthetic fuels reach agricultural practice as quickly as possible,” demanded Ehrhard. According to the industry association, climate-friendly liquid and gaseous fuels are the most effective solution for agricultural machinery.

Hydrogenated vegetable oils from residues are being discussed as a promising, directly usable option: “With so-called HVO fuels, up to 90 percent of CO2 emissions could already be saved compared to fossil fuels. This has a strong impact, especially on the existing fleet.” In the power range up to 100 kilowatts, battery electric drives are already seen as a marketable option in many places for defined applications in farm operations and on special crops.

Reorganization of the export geography

At international market level, the VDMA is observing at least a partial “reorganization of the export geography for agricultural machinery and tractors as a result of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Exports of European agricultural machinery to the United States, but also to the countries of South America and South East Asia, have recently gained noticeably in importance,” said the industry expert. This is also helping to cushion the current sideways movement of the industry economy in some traditional markets in Western Europe, at least in certain areas.

Passable development forecast for 2024

Global business expectations for the coming year are generally cautious. “However, we must not forget how robust the income situation of farmers has been recently,” summarized Ehrhard. Although there are likely to be signs of a slowdown compared to the peak level of the current year, a full-blown negative trend is not currently foreseeable.

Around 200 manufacturers of innovative agricultural machinery, tractors and software systems are organized in the VDMA Agricultural Machinery Association. With 150,000 employees in Europe, around 40,000 of them in Germany alone, the agricultural machinery industry is one of the leading sectors of mechanical and plant engineering.

The VDMA represents 3,600 German and European mechanical and plant engineering companies. The industry stands for innovation, export orientation and medium-sized companies. The companies employ a total of around 3 million people in the EU-27, of which more than 1.2 million in Germany alone. This makes mechanical and plant engineering the largest industries, both in the EU-27 and in Germany. It represents an estimated turnover volume of around 860 billion euros in the European Union. Around 80 percent of the machines sold in the EU originate from a production facility in the single market.

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