New Holland Agriculture on the path to zero carbon farming

New Holland’s innovative products and state-of-the-art agricultural solutions help farmers improve the efficiency and sustainability of their farms. It means they can do more with less and turn farms into profitable businesses

Could sustainable farming hold the answer to some of the world's pressing energy problems? New Holland Agriculture has partnered with several leading organisations to develop alternative energy solutions, such as biomass

New Holland’s vision for the future of agriculture is about efficiency and sustainable farming – doing more with less – for agribusinesses to operate profitably and develop in a way that is sustainable in the long term while preserving natural resources for future generations. This commitment underpins New Holland’s company ethos and is at the heart of everything it does, in every factory, office and product.

This translates into New Holland’s wide-spectrum approach to sustainability and its belief in innovative technology that maximises efficiency, is easy to use and is accessible to all. The company works closely with farmers on every continent, partners with universities and research institutes, and participates in biodiversity and conservation projects across the globe to develop and promote technologies and farming practices that will contribute to a sustainable future.

If we want to go further in agriculture, we must look at increasing the efficiency of farming operations; to do more with fewer resources

All these efforts come together in New Holland’s Clean Energy Leader programme, the overarching objective of which is to help farmers achieve energy independence, increasing their production efficiency and improving the sustainability of their farms. Since 2006, the programme has driven numerous pioneering initiatives shaped around the needs of farmers, the machinery they use, and the impact their activities have on the population and the environment.

The path to energy independence begins with New Holland’s research into renewable energy sources in agriculture: in addition to growing oilseed rape and sunflowers for energy, the company has been looking at a wide offering of other solutions. These range from turning sugar beet, sugarcane and maize into bioethanol, to unlocking the high energy potential of short rotation coppice and grasses such as miscanthus – or even using sugarcane stover and corn stover to produce energy.

On the way to energy independence
As countries around the world look to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels, research into alternative sources of energy has come to the fore. The agricultural world is taking the lead by developing innovative solutions to identify crops that can be turned into energy and the most efficient processes to achieve this. New Holland has taken a proactive role, conducting numerous research projects in collaboration with academic institutions and specialist industrial partners around the world.

These projects look at a variety of crops that can serve as alternative sources of renewable fuel. For example, New Holland is running two projects – one with the University of Illinois and the other with Penn State University and the US Department of Agriculture – to look into various aspects of growing, crop yields and harvesting miscanthus as a source of energy.

Sugar cane stover and corn stover can be transformed into ethanol using second-generation cellulosic bioethanol production techniques, which produces 30 to 40 percent more ethanol than traditional first generation techniques. In Brazil, New Holland has partnered with the Sugar Cane Technology Centre in a project to develop energy production from sugar cane and sugar cane straw in two test farms. This solution brings advantages to both farmers and the environment as it negates the need for stubble burning – which is extremely polluting – and provides an additional source of income for the farmer.

The company has also sponsored research on corn stover bale density. This has resulted in the development of the Cornrower equipment, which can increase bale density by as much as 15 percent.

New Holland is partnering with University of Nebraska to look into using corn stover as animal feed. On another project, New Holland is working with Iowa State University, and the POET and DuPont plants for the production of second-generation cellulosic ethanol from corn stover to determine the best methods to harvest, collect and store corn stover.

The power of biomass
Biomass as a source of energy is more than a viable solution; it is carbon-neutral energy, as the carbon emitted during the utilisation of the crops is absorbed by the crops grown during the following season. And it doesn’t need to take land away from food production, as unwanted by-products of harvesting, such as corn stover, can be baled and turned into energy. Even animal manure, bedding and excess slurry can be used to generate energy.

Alternative energy solutions


Additional ethanol produced through second-generation cellulosic production techniques


Increase in bale density from Cornrower equipment

Biomass can provide farmers with the key to energy independence: it is on every farm, and so is the equipment needed to harvest and process the crops. Farmers can produce the energy to run their equipment and their farm – and they can sell any surplus back to the national grid.

Farmers can already run their New Holland equipment on biodiesel: with their land to grow biomass crops, they are well on the way to being energy independent. New Holland is looking ahead, to a future with zero emissions.

On the path to zero carbon farming New Holland has worked on its NH2 hydrogen tractor project, unveiling its second-generation prototype in 2011. This is a truly revolutionary concept that uses a hydrogen tank and fuel cells to generate electricity, which runs the electric motors that powers the machine and its implements. No noise, no polluting emissions – just a little water. The NH2 tractor has shown in the field that it is a viable concept. However, the high cost of the fuel cells means that, for now, it is not commercially feasible.

New Holland has turned its attention to developing a solution for the nearer future, which doesn’t depend on such high cost elements: a methane tractor that runs on methane generated from biomass grown on the farm and processed in the farm’s biogas plant. Methane propulsion technology can lower emissions by as much as 80 percent compared with a standard diesel engine, and, when using bio-methane, the machine’s carbon impact is virtually zero. New Holland unveiled its T6.140 Methane Power tractor working prototype last year. The first unit has entered service at New Holland’s pilot Energy Independent Farm in Italy, and the T6.140 could enter production to become commercially available in only a few years, bringing a zero carbon future closer.

Preserving resources and profitability
Cutting emissions from burning fossil fuels by providing alternative renewable sources of energy produced sustainably is one way of reducing our impact on the environment. If we want to go further in agriculture, we must look at increasing the efficiency of farming operations; to do more with fewer resources. New Holland’s track record in developing innovative technologies and features speaks volumes about its belief in the positive role agricultural equipment can have. It can help us feed a fast growing population while preserving natural resources for future generations – contributing to a profitable business model for farms that is sustainable in the long term.

Doing more with less: that is what precision farming is about, and it is dramatically changing the landscape of farming around the world

Doing more with less: that is what precision farming is about, and it is dramatically changing the landscape of farming around the world. New Holland’s Precision Land Management (PLM) technologies: analyse and plan the farmer’s tasks in the field; pinpoint areas with lower yields where inputs can be focused; and enable farmers to precision place seeds, fertiliser and pesticides to ensure maximum returns, achieving uniform planting and crop protection. This not only leads to higher yields, but it also prevents potentially harmful and wasteful surpluses from damaging the environment.

Soil is a farm’s lifeblood. That’s where the present and future viability of a farm lies, so protecting it – maintaining the nutrients it contains – is vital to every farmer’s future. With PLM mapping and auto-guidance systems, the farmer is able to control field traffic and cover the field with the minimum number of passes, so they never overlap. This prevents overspraying and potentially harmful run-off, as well as minimising the risks of soil compaction, which dramatically affects its productivity.

This is a powerful technology, but of course it is a tool and it requires an in-depth knowledge of efficient farming practices to yield its full potential. New Holland has partnered with US Purdue University’s College of Agriculture – one of the world’s leading academic institutions of agricultural sciences – to develop and implement a programme to train the company’s PLM field staff.

The course covers how precision farming is developing and is expected to evolve around the world, how it fits in and impacts on a farmer’s business model, and the challenges and implications of adopting precision solutions in the business model. The overarching aim of the programme is to enable the staff to identify opportunities PLM offers farmers and how staff can advise them on how they can integrate these technologies successfully in their businesses.

Low impact agriculture
Businesses around the world are encouraged to monitor and reduce their carbon emissions, and farms are no different, as consumers increasingly ask for produce with a small carbon footprint. The easiest and perhaps most obvious way to do that is to use equipment with low emissions, such as New Holland’s ECOBlue machines. These machines not only meet the strict Tier 4A emissions regulations but also cut down on fuel consumption, further reducing their carbon footprint.

In fact, a New Holland Tier 4A compliant machine’s emissions are so low that it would have to run 100 days to produce the same amount of emissions as a Tier 1 machine built 10 years ago would have in just one day. Farmers can discover the exact carbon emissions of their fleet with New Holland’s carbon footprinting method, so they can calculate how much they could reduce their footprint by replacing some of their equipment with ECOBlue models.

New Holland is investing in methane technology to reduce the environmental impact of farming
New Holland is investing in methane technology to reduce the environmental impact of farming

Preserving natural resources is not only about efficiency: it is also about reducing the impact of farming activities on the environment. This can be done, profitably, by combining sustainable management of the soil, residue and inputs with advanced crop diversification techniques. We should not forget that, while farms are the guardians of our countryside, they are primarily businesses that must generate the income needed to build a sustainable long-term future.

New Holland is active in conservation agriculture projects around the world, supporting farmers who wish to apply these practices with equipment and advice. Conservation agriculture focuses on eliminating waste and preserving nature’s resources. No-till farming, for example, leaves the soil virtually undisturbed after the growing season, so nutrients and moisture are locked in for the following season’s crops. This not only combats erosion, but also improves the water preservation qualities of the soil as its structure is maintained. In addition to these benefits, no-till farming reduces soil compaction and fuel consumption, as it dramatically reduces traffic in the field – further reducing the farm’s carbon footprint.

Committed to a sustainable future
The Clean Energy Leader strategy is at the heart of everything New Holland does, from supporting sustainable farming practices to participating in biodiversity and conservation projects. It also guides the company’s partnerships with academic and research institutes that promote technologies and farming practices for a sustainable future.

And it informs the way New Holland runs its operations, starting from reducing the environmental impact of its production. It concentrates manufacturing, where possible, close to the customer so transport is reduced, cutting down fuel consumption. New Holland selects the most efficient and lowest emissions transport solutions. Its manufacturing plants apply World Class Manufacturing Practices that require energy reduction and elimination of waste. It lengthens the lifespan of its spare parts by giving them a second lease of life as remanufactured parts.

As a result of all these efforts, in 2013, New Holland played a key role in CNH Industrial being ranked first in the Dow Jones Sustainability World and Europe Indices for its environmental performance for the third year in a row.

The future of agriculture is bright: applying technology and mechanisation with an eye on the environment, doing more with less while reducing the impact of farming activities is the way to a sustainable and profitable future for farmers – and a healthier environment for all.

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