Doing More with Less Equipment

This farm replaced two combines with one Fendt® IDEAL™ … and the results add up for their business.

By Jamie Cole | Photos By Jamie Cole

Eliminating waste goes beyond product at RAKR Farms. Richard Roach, who farms at RAKR with his father, Rick, and brother-in-law, Kyle Dyer, says that recent innovation in equipment has helped the operation become more efficient with time, fuel and labor at harvest. A new combine fits in well with the farm’s philosophy of efficiency and eliminating waste (see the full story here).

“Obviously, a combine is a huge capital investment, and a crucial and important tool,” he says. The RAKR Farms approach to managing harvest was one of risk management: “We always historically had one red combine and one green combine, and we felt that was a way to kinda spread the risk a little bit and capture the benefits of both machines.” Besides being a large financial investment, it’s also a drain on time, with maintaining two machines with different parts, different headers, etc., and labor, since operation is different. “We have to do more with less,” Richard says, so they looked for a machine that could help them change their model.

That’s what led them to the Fendt IDEAL combine.

“There were existing machines that had the throughput capacity that we were looking for, but they did not have the grain handling capacity,” he says. “There were machines that have the grain handling capacity, but did not have the throughput capacity.” In 2016, RAKR Farms also transitioned to controlled-traffic farming to help reduce compaction—every piece of equipment that passes through their fields is on the same traffic lanes, and they wanted everything on tracks, as well.

“That’s what we liked about the Fendt,” he says. “On paper, it could have the capacity that we needed for the throughput. It had the grain tank size, the unload auger speed… to push everything through one machine and maximize the efficiencies in harvest and maximize our grain handling infrastructure.”

“On paper” is an important distinction. The IDEAL combine is what engineers refer to as a “clean-sheet” design, a fresh approach that pools years of interviews with combine operators around the world, lab and field tests, and engineering expertise into what AGCO describes as “not just a new machine, but a harvesting strategy.”

“So we factored all facets into the analysis of the purchase of that machine,” says Richard, including fuel costs, as well. “We looked at fuel savings from (the aspect of) total fuel used because we felt like we’d be able to complete the same number of acres in fewer hours,” he says. “We were pretty close in our modeling and they came through as advertised.”

A clean-sheet design can also mean growing pains, and Richard says that was a risk they were willing to take for the sake of efficiency. Plus, he says, “with the Gold Star program, which includes zero maintenance expenses for the first three years, you start to level that playing field pretty quickly,” he says. “That’s a big deal, especially when you’re trying to run one machine, if your machine goes down, you go from 100% productivity to 0% productivity.”

Even a zero-maintenance program needs local execution, and Richard is quick to credit Plevna Implement Company and their Kokomo, Indiana, location. “The Plevna team really proved themselves to us,” he says, not just in negotiating the purchase of the machine, but in their service standard.

He remembers needing a part late one night as soybean harvest was wrapping up. “We knew that we had a rain coming. It was 10 o’clock. We needed a part. We flew over to Kokomo, and one of their service technicians met us there… handed me the part. He had taken it off a machine that they had sitting there. I came back, threw it back on and we kept cutting until 3:30 in the morning.

“And we finished the following day just before the rain,” he says. “There was not another good bean-cutting day that fall, so had we not gotten done, we would’ve been drying soybeans. And that’s essentially a cost that you could add back to your combine had we not received the timely service.”

Richard and the RAKR team also know AGCO wants the machine to be successful. “They are taking our input very seriously,” he says. “Someone on the operational level, like us here, to be able to have access to some of the top guys in AGCO who really have an open ear … that speaks volumes.”