Event: Agritechnica Asia 2018

By: Andrew Hobbs

Presented by

We take on Agrictechnica Asia, looking at how Australian and overseas companies are trying to make their mark in Thailand

The Massey Ferguson MF 6700 Global Series on display
From its MF 6700 Global Series, the MF6712 has a maximum horsepower of 120 and a 4 tonne rear 3 point lift capacity to handle the big jobs.

Roughly 40 per cent of its population work in agriculture-related jobs and the country is the world’s second-largest rice exporter, behind only India, with 10.5 million metric tonnes exported in 2017-18.

But Thailand wants more. The nation has set its sights on becoming the "the hub of agricultural production in south-east Asia" – and is looking around the world to secure international technologies and know-how to help boost efficiency and yield.

To help with this, the Thai ministry of agriculture is a strong supporter of AgriTechnica Asia, the Asian offshoot of the Germany’s AgriTechnica trade fair, held for its second year in August. About 300 exhibitors from 29 countries attended the event this year, most showing off technologies for greenhouses, irrigation, harvesting, crop protection and drilling and sowing.

With the nation experiencing rising numbers of its young people moving to cities, both the government and conference organisers said that modern farming techniques would play an important role in improving productivity and sustainability.

Thailand’s Department of Agricultural Extension invited more than 1,000 young farmers to the AgriTechnica Asia event, with director-general Somchai Charnnarongkul saying that knowledge-sharing events like these were key.

"It is our goal that all farmers become smart farmers applying innovations and smart technology, especially with regard to farm labour shortages," he says.

But it’s fair to say that as far as numbers are concerned, what looks like a worker shortage in Thailand would almost certainly be a surplus in Australia – given our population roughly 40 million fewer, and a much lower percentage is working in agriculture. But while there might be more farmers, the land holdings themselves are much smaller, meaning farm machinery must be sized accordingly, and priced to match.

 

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL

Many of the manufacturers exhibiting at the event were displaying the smaller models in their range – satisfying their twin aims of showing machinery that was small and nimble with being able to fit said machinery into a convention centre in the middle of Bangkok.

A case in point is LS Mtron’s MC71 combine harvester, on display at the event. It weighs 3.1 tonnes, is 5 metres long and 2.3 metres wide, boasting a 52-kilowatt engine with a comb 2.1 metres wide.

Its companion at the event, the MT3.50E tractor, gets 50 horsepower (33.6kW), weighs 1.5 tonnes without ballast and has a top forward speed of 26.3km/h.

Jason Lee, senior manager of the tractor division in the Korean company’s overseas marketing team, told Farms & Farm Machinery the tractor had been developed especially for the south-east Asian market – and specifically for use in rice paddies.

"It has a very high ground clearance, which is suitable for the muddy paddy fields, and it also has a waterproof front axle and a light weight … getting stuck is problem, so the weight of the machine is very important in this area," he says.

"We are just feeding the business for the combine harvester …  the Thai market is a good opportunity, it is the biggest market for combine harvesters in this area.

"The harvester is specialised for the paddy but it can also harvest barley, lupins, wheat – so multiple crops. In the beginning we were only focused on the Chinese market but now we are very confident our quality and the performance so we feel we are ready to export the machine out of China and into Thailand and other south-east Asian countries."

Neither of the products is currently available in Australia.

 

Thaisengyont’s Jaopayu 4.0 combine harvester
Thaisengyont’s Jaopayu 4.0 combine harvester has a Hino JO8C-1 Turbo HP engine, a threshing size of 1800mm and weighs 8.2 tonnes empty. Air conditioning is an optional extra.

MATCHMAKING

Aside from hoping to boost local recognition of his brand, Lee was also looking to find a partner to help the company further expand into the local market.

He wasn’t alone in that pursuit, with a number of attendees aiming to speak with local manufacturers or dealers in hope of securing a major client.

While a number of Australian companies attended the event, few were willing to speak on the record – with at least two saying they did not want to reveal what they were doing to a local competitor.

But many said that, in speaking with Thai companies and Thai buyers, they were considering producing a scaled-down version of their products, after finding that the sheer size of what was normal Down Under was completely impractical for the locals.

One company that employed a similar approach was Massey Ferguson parent company AGCO, which was displaying its MF 4700, 5700 and 6700 tractors alongside other farm machinery developed uniquely for the south-east Asian market.

AGCO general marketing manager for the Far East David Alvarez told Farms & Farm Machinery that the company had thought it best to take a conservative approach to technology when it planned a wider revamp of its tractor range.

"It was really important for us in Asia that it would be easy for somebody to transfer from a heritage product … that it wasn’t a challenge to change to the new design," he says.

Launched in Australia in 2014, the range was designed with a modular concept – one design with "a highly flexible approach".

Known as the Global Series, the company even went to the lengths of developing a greenfield site in China, rather than doing a joint venture with a local manufacturer, Alvarez added.

"That is a very different approach and again indicates a commitment to this part of the world, and a commitment to trying to build the kind of flexible, quality oriented machine that people need," he says. "We are trying to build tractors as close to the customers as we can. That is a real big vote of confidence for this part of the world."

 

The LS Mtron MT3.50E tractor has a 37.3kW engine and is 3.2m long, bumper to link
The LS Mtron MT3.50E tractor has a 37.3kW engine and is 3.2m long, bumper to link

WHAT’S NEXT

For many attending AgriTechnica Asia in 2018, the machinery might have been small but the potential was large – with the event’s 300 exhibitors up 25 per cent on the previous year, while the number of trade participants rose 30 per cent to 10,677.

The event is set to return in 2020, with conference organisers hoping to further expand its systems and components section then.

Perhaps by then, for Australian companies at least, the secret will be out. 

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