Could tractor implement management (TIM) become the next big must-have for those seeking to extract the best operating efficiency from their tractors and implements? Geoff Ashcroft takes a look at the progress being made, to find out what it could offer users.
Tractor implement management (TIM) is an extension of IsoBus technology. Often referred to as IsoBus class 3, it could become the next revolution in ag-technology by controlling and optimising field operations from allowing the implement to control the tractor.
While it might seem like the tail is wagging the dog, the theory is much simpler – if the implement controls the tractor, the operator does not have to maintain peak efficiency all day long. Useful perhaps, with repetitive tasks like round baling, to maintain operational efficiency. By letting the baler take control of the tractor’s transmission and electronic spool valves, the role of the operator becomes much simpler and productivity is less likely to be interrupted.
Where harvest or casual labour is involved, the ability to simplify machine operation means less-skilled operators could master the basics much more quickly. But for the more experienced operator still feeling operating conditions through the tractor seat, it could be argued that the extra cost of buying into TIM outweighs the available benefits.
When round baling for example, TIM, when activated, can stop the tractor when the bale reaches its specified size; then automatically apply the net; open the rear door; eject the bale and close the door. At this point, the operator gets a notification to start the driving process as part of built-in safety protocols – after all, the baler does not know if the route ahead is clear or safe enough to recommence forward travel.
Greater efficiency and less fatigue are among the suggested benefits, particularly with an endless process of repetitive actions. And more and more kit is starting to fall into line, as further advances are made with electronic trickery.
Standards are governed through the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF) and its IsoBus automation project team, to ensure multi-brand automation is seamlessly achieved among all global manufacturers who take part. TIM-compliant equipment will also bear the AEF’s blue square symbol containing the letters TIM, reinforcing its certification for proven automation.
Importantly, tractor and implement do not have to come from the same manufacturer. As long as both meet the AEF’s standards, connectivity with automatic control over key tractor functions, should prevail. To take full advantage of this advanced level of control, the operator needs to have both a tractor and an implement that are TIM-ready, allowing the two machines to communicate electronically. These can be from the same stable, or from different brands.
But before you rush to adopt this latest industry revolution, be aware that new inventions that promise to revolutionise the way we farm, can come with hidden surprises. And in an industry that continues to deal with cross-brand connectivity and compatibility issues, could TIM be yet another reason for operators to lose more hair?
As an optional extra, TIM capability is also likely to require the purchase of an extra software licence to unlock an implement’s potential. And it does not stop with the implement – tractor makers are charging to unlock this functionality too. Furthermore, TIM is currently only capable of managing tractors with continuously variable transmissions and electronic spool valves. Looking ahead though, several tractor and implement makers have made big strides with TIM.
Kubota was the first manufacturer to receive AEF certification for both tractor and implement, with its latest M7003 Series tractor range and the BV5160 variable chamber round baler with IsoBus connectivity.
“We are looking to carry out extensive demonstrations in the UK this year along with Kubota, using a TIM-equipped M7173 tractor and BV5160 baler combination,” says David Furber, UK sales manager for the Kverneland Group, which manufactures the Kubota-branded BV5160 variable chamber round baler.
“By taking out the repetitive tasks associated with round baling, we’re expecting to see a reduction in operator fatigue, while overall efficiency and quality improves,” he says.
Case IH has travelled a similar path with round and square balers, and also implemented TIM on its Maxxum CVX and Puma CVX tractors with electronic hydraulic remote valves.
Round baler automation with a TIM-activated tractor should see RB455 and RB465 balers capable of stopping the tractor, applying net wrap, opening the tailgate, ejecting the bale and closing the tailgate – all without operator intervention.
Available on net-only balers, automation requires a bale presence switch and bale ramp, so the control system can detect the current position of the bale.
Case IH’s LB424 and LB434 big square balers also benefit from feed rate control, achieved by the baler determining changes in forward speed of the tractor.
“The operator can select between charge control and slice control modes,” explains Case IH product marketing specialist Paul Freeman. “Charge control measures throughput of the crop being fed into the pre-compression chamber, along with time for filling the feeder channel and adjusts the tractor speed to achieve optimum capacity.
“With slice control, the tractor’s speed is adapted to be based on slice thickness, and will strive to obtain a user-defined amount of slices for a set bale length.”
SDF says TIM is only available for Stage 4 and 5 compliant Deutz-Fahr TTV tractors. While control buttons have been in place on Lauingen-built tractors since the introduction of Stage 4 models, software activation is required by the dealer and is linked to the tractor VIN.
“Ground speed, electronic remotes, front and rear three-point linkage, steering and pto operation is possible through an appropriate TIM-activated implement,” says SDF product and precision farming specialist, David Jefferson. “The capability is there, but activation comes at a cost.”
Grimme is currently trialling systems to work on trailed potato harvesters to optimize harvester loading, while Krone is pushing ahead with round baler control on the Comprima models, which is a development that stemmed from its early experiments with the Ultima non-stop baler.
Pottinger has been working to develop a TIM-compatible power harrow which offers a system called Seedbed Control. Still being tested, Seedbed Control automatically adjusts the forward speed and pto speed of the tractor, based on clod images ‘seen’ by an on-board camera.
Lemken hopes to be demonstrating its iQblue control set, which confirms to the AEF TIM standard, on its ploughs and cultivators later this year.
“We are intending to fit a system to one of our ploughs, so that TIM can be used to manage variable furrow width and front furrow width, when linked to a TIM tractor with GPS and auto-steering,” explains Lemken UK general manager Paul Creasy.
“And a similar system is planned for our Karat 9 and 12 trailed cultivators equipped with Contour Track. This will allow the frame to automatically pivot longitudinally to maintain an even cultivation depth over the length of the implement, on undulating ground.”
The list of manufacturers continues to grow. Krone, Grimme, Kubota, Pottinger, Lemken and Kverneland Group are among those continuing to develop TIM technology that can optimise implement efficiency, while SDF and AGCO are all creating versions of the technology.
However, Deere has followed its own route since 2011, with a control system it calls tractor implement automation (TIA), but has recently come to the AEF table to meet the wider industry compliant TIM protocol.
TIM is available on Deere’s 6R tractors from model year 2017, and requires a supplementary activation to be carried out, to unlock software for which a fee must be paid.