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It seems to me that the obvious set of plans would be to replace all electronics of a modern piece of equipment, or to upgrade something older to modern capability.

For the modern stuff, equipment can be unfixable without factory authorization. The rest (tires, frame, pistons...) is perfectly fine, so just replace the electronics.

Older stuff doesn't do GPS, automated steering, and so on. That should be doable.

It could probably be split into model-specific parts and more general parts, allowing at least some of it to be done as a large production run.

Older stuff does just fine w/ 3pt hitch & PTO. You can hook up new implements to a 50 year old tractor. The biggest issue is finding parts for some of the less common makes/brands.

Modern stuff is partially complex due to new emissions standards(things like DPF, regeneration and UREA). An open source ECU that solves those problems would be a good step.

Clutch based tractors aren't that complex, there's just a large amount of capital investment in building them and very little incentives to make them open.

This is the key, somebody needs to make a minimal-electronics tractor new with even a moderate amount of openness.

What's the market? I can't imagine ever wanting to trade my modern electronics-filled tractors for the stuff we have run in the past, even if it was in brand new condition. I look forward to the day that I can upgrade my tractors to ones with even more electronics in them.

Yeah, the electronics can break. But even on the equipment I own where the electronics are not critical to the operation, you still end up fixing it ASAP because you quickly miss not having it. Electronics have become heavily used because they add a lot of value.

Perhaps not in the case of the aforementioned DEF, but that's a legal requirement, and even the most basic tractor you could imagine would still require it.

The market is small farmers (lets say 500 acres) who want an economical machine they can own for decades and maintain themselves. There are plenty of electronics which are useful which don't need to be integrated into the tractor.

I would want anything I'd buy to not have a magical black box which costs thousands of dollars every time it has a problem.

You've pretty much described my operation, but I still don't see your vision. In fact, there's nothing inherently unapproachable about electronics. I often have an easier time understanding the electrical faults than I do the mechanical ones.

There are still some fairly bare bones new tractors on the market, particularly those that come from the old Eastern Bloc, but I don't know anyone who wants to own one. There is a dealer around, so someone must (perhaps in the compact market?), but they are definitely few and far between. I'm not sure I have ever seen one in person.

Besides, if you're comfortable with maintaining a decades old tractor, why wouldn't you buy an existing one? There are plenty of a good old used tractors on the market that are tried and true. They last a long time and will be far cheaper than anyone could ever make a new one for.

I'm left wondering if you are out of touch with the realities of farming, or are farming in a completely different way to what I am? If the latter, I'd love to know more about your operation.

The vision is simple hackable machines designed to be maintained. You'll spend quite a bit less on engineering costs if you dump most of the electronics and turn a tractor into an attachment bus for all of the electronic features you might want (crowdsourced or commercial). The mechanical design could be more or less static with only minor refinements and you might just end up with a machine that costs a fraction of the latest John Deere.

Cheaper machinery (and not having to hunt at farm auctions for good deals) lowers the bar so you can get more and smaller farmers which I believe is a big step to improving our food economy (and not just the money part, the whole (what|where|why) of growing food could be much improved if there was less focus on industrial concerns)

I only go home to farm for fun a few times a year – after a while it might not be only for fun.

You know that the cost of a JD/Kubota/New Holland has to do more with the abuse they can take than the electronics right?

Kubota basically targets that market(Compact Utility Tractor) and geared ones still cost more than a new car before you factor in maintence.

I'm talking more of the 250-500 HP range tractor which generally cost more than a house.

Really? What 500 acre farm needs a 250HP tractor, let alone 500HP? Besides, I'd suggest the farms that do need tractors that big also really do have a good justification for all of the electronics that are found within.

And since the manufacturers need to do all the engineering for those large farmers regardless, I, like the parent, am going to also have to question how much the electronic equipment really costs to put in the lower end models? It's certainly not a zero cost, but how much are we really talking?

For example:

Here's a ripper. We used something like it this year to, amongst other things, assist with some drainage issues.


28-38 HP per shank, up to 9 shanks. That's ~350 HP in it's max configuration.

>It's certainly not a zero cost, but how much are we really talking?

Low volume, high complexity electronic hardware design and manufacture? I've been part of engineering departments building such things and it's not cheap. It'll cost... $200,000 per employee-year for engineers? Researching enough to come up with an actual cost would probably take days – but it's definitely a significant if not majority share of the engineering budget.

> 28-38 HP per shank, up to 9 shanks. That's ~350 HP in it's max configuration.

Why does 500 acres necessitate the max configuration? I mean, you could also run a DB120 and have all of your acreage planted in 6 hours, but that seems rather unnecessary at that size. There is a certain time/value calculation at play, but at that size you can justify spreading the work over more time.

Plus, the brochure you link to even shows a Puma 210 running the unit, which has just 210 engine HP. Clearly the implement can work just fine with a sub-250HP tractor.

> Low volume, high complexity electronic hardware design and manufacture?

No. Much of hardware is already going to be designed for the big operators either way. So, just the cost of increasing the manufacturing volume for putting the same equipment on equipment destined for the smaller farmers.

Getting a bit into the weeds here, I pulled 250-500 out of my ass. Perhaps you'd be happier with 200-400, but I was just giving an approximate range of the sort of thing necessary and contrasting with the other commentor.

The problem here is that we're trying to establish why your target market of someone who farms 500 acres would want to buy your hypothetical tractor. I thought your market was already small to begin with, and as we get more details of what you feel is necessary, I'm left feeling like the market is even smaller than I originally thought.

As cool as 500HP is, there are consequences to that much power. It uses more fuel, it requires more material (metal, rubber, etc.) to handle the load, it requires more shed space to store, larger implements to do something with that power, etc. all of which just piles on the costs. Even ignoring electronics completely, a 500HP tractor is going to cost more to own than a 100HP tractor.

While I recognize that everyone farms differently, in my experience 100-200HP is sufficient and price-optimal to get the job done on a 500 acre farm. That's why I was surprised to see you suggesting this hypothetical tractor be so far away from that, especially when you claimed that price cutting was the primary driver here.

If you truly can buy a 300HP tractor without electronics for the same price as a 150HP tractor with (along with the implements sized for that additional power) allowing you to get the job done faster so you can get back to another job that pays the bills, maybe there is something there. But then that doesn't solve the capital cost problem of new farmers that you felt was important.

In short, I'm struggling to find the coherency in your comments. Perhaps you can go back and tie all the tangents together?

It's price differentiation. In some cases, low-end products ship with all the hardware but the features are disabled in software. Think of Tesla, which has shipped identical hardware at different prices, with the low-end model having less battery capacity due to software.

The way to break this is to make Open Source electronics replacement kits for all the popular models.

Ideally yes, but drop-in replacement electronics for a popular model would be almost as good.

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