It’s no secret that the adoption of advanced technologies is accelerating in agriculture and construction. Machines today are more powerful, precise and easy to use than they have ever been, making them more efficient, productive and sustainable.
Sustainability is top of mind for many businesses, and for agriculture and construction, it is an opportunity to transform how we manage our natural resources to grow food and build communities.
In real terms, that means finding innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions — in the plants where we build our machines and also during their usage — and developing methods to preserve the natural environment while maximizing productivity.
These challenges are familiar to CNH Industrial. Selin Tur, the company’s vice president of advanced technologies and innovations, and John Crowell, director of sustainability, explain how the industry is adopting and continuing to develop advanced technologies to find viable sustainability solutions.
How do advanced technologies play a role in achieving sustainability goals?
Selin Tur: All the technologies we work on have a sustainability impact, from automation and autonomous technologies to alternative fuels and electrification to advanced materials. That’s by increasing productivity, driving efficiency higher or reducing fuel consumption.
John Crowell: The path to achieving our sustainability goals is one of continuous improvement. Whether it be decarbonizing within our own operations, within our value chain or related to our product portfolio, it’s technology advancements that progress us forward.
What are the sustainability challenges that advanced technologies can help address?
ST: They can help reduce the carbon footprint of CNH Industrial and our products. Alternative powertrains, such as fully electric, hybrid electric and biofuels, are all viable solutions. They can reduce operations’ emissions while maintaining quality and productivity.
JC: There are further ways to meet the decarbonization challenge. We can manufacture our products with materials that have a lower emission impact for a higher level of recyclability, but also a higher level of end-of-life recyclability.
And precision technologies offer farmers innovative ways to lower their carbon footprint. Examples include improving water efficiency by using variable rate irrigation systems linked to real-time weather forecasts, which also take into account how the crop is growing. And pesticides can be applied precisely where they are needed.
Advanced technologies can also preserve biodiversity which considers the interconnectedness between water risk, water scarcity, climate change and ecosystem. Using precision technology to minimize inputs supports the natural environment and contributes to healthier soils.
What are some examples of advanced technologies addressing sustainability challenges?
ST: Recently we acquired ‘sense and act’ specialist Augmenta. A key solution the company offers is a multispectral camera and advanced artificial intelligence engine. This ‘sees’ the crop in front of the tractor and adjusts the fertilizer being applied in real time by visually measuring the crops’ nitrogen levels. This provides a new level of efficiency for farmers.
It optimizes inputs according to crop status and demand through precise rate control at normal vehicle speeds. This provides a new level of field efficiency for the producer.
At the end of the year, we’ll be launching the New Holland T4 Electric Power. It’s the industry’s first all-electric light utility tractor. With a battery pack that can support a full day of operation, it’s a viable alternative fuel solution for farmers looking to decarbonize.
It also adds to our growing electric product portfolio across agriculture and construction, which includes a series of mini excavators, a compact wheel loader and backhoe loader.
JC: Alongside electric, our work with Bennamann highlights a tried and tested biofuels solution. Bennamann has expertise in capturing, repurposing and storing fugitive methane emissions for energy use. And when connected with our machinery, they can dramatically reduce emissions to deliver a carbon-negative system that fully supports a circular economy. When electricity is generated from captured fugitive livestock methane, it can be used to power the tractor, the farm and even be sold back to the grid.
What are the significant challenges or opportunities regarding advanced technology adoption?
JC: One adoption challenge around decarbonization is ensuring that the alternative fuel equipment can complete all the tasks on the farm. That’s why biomethane is such an attractive solution – it delivers the same power as a conventional diesel machine.
Another challenge is variety in what our customers are aiming to produce. Because of this, there's a great degree of variability in the solutions they're looking for. They want to be sustainable, but all want to maximize their productivity. And to satisfy this, we continually evaluate our portfolio.
ST: For customers, price and availability are key. Installing and operating advanced technologies must come close to their current total cost of ownership and provide a significant return on investment. As accessibility to these fuels increases, so should the variety of equipment that can utilize them.
JC: Indeed, there is still an infrastructure challenge — whether that be recharging/fueling stations or biodigesters. Training and support, both for operators and our dealer partners, will also be needed to ensure a smooth transition to these new solutions.
What promising technology advancements hold potential for sustainable agriculture and construction?
ST: Certainly, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. Advanced sensors will make farming practices more efficient by controlling the volume of chemicals applied to fields.
We’re also working on augmented and virtual reality. These solutions also accelerate product development times through virtual assembly and digital prototyping — and they can reduce our travel by enabling us to conduct virtual design reviews. It’s sustainability through reduction. They also enable remote diagnostics and mean field issues can be resolved quickly without having to wait for a technician to attend.
JC: There is also an increasing focus on electrifying implements and not just the vehicle. There's a great opportunity there for further innovation, leading to increased productivity and sustainability.
What does future collaboration between your technology and sustainability functions look like?
JC: It's a collaborative engagement between our teams. We both acknowledge the challenge of decarbonizing our products, but also the opportunity for the industry, and for our customers.
The sustainability team is leading the efforts to help the company meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s objectives. And in doing so, we are learning from the research and development team. They’re showing us what’s feasible, what's within their technology innovation roadmap and what really matters to our customers.
ST: My team is in an advantageous position working with John. It enables us to tie our innovation and technology programs into company sustainability goals and targets. It’s a good process that has real customer benefits.
With CNH Industrial continuing to innovate, the agriculture and construction industries are progressing toward a more sustainable future. It’s clear that advanced technologies are more than just an option — they’re essential. We are committed to delivering solutions that produce food, fiber, energy, shelter and infrastructure for a growing world population sustainably.
And that does not mean sacrifice. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Advanced technologies are unlocking new ways for operators to add value, from a sustainability standpoint and beyond.
This article series is sponsored by CNH Industrial and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.
Image credit: Valentin Valkov via Adobe Stock
CNH Industrial is a world-class equipment and services company that sustainably advances the noble work of agriculture and construction workers. The company provides the strategic direction, R&D capabilities, and investments that enable the success of its core brands.
We're compiling all data!