A Case IH tractor outside the essential merchandise shop.
A Case IH tractor outside the essential merchandise shop.

In a field far, far away. That is not the line for the opening sequence of a new Star Wars movie, but anyone who has ever visited Agri SA’s Nampo agricultural show will know that the showgrounds outside Bothaville in the Free State are quite far away. Unless you live in Bothaville, of course.

We have been there a few times before but have always flown in to join the numerous other aeroplanes and helicopters that the farmers use to get to the show. This time we drove, not an easy task from Johannesburg.

ON THE MOVE: UD Trucks has launched its new Cromer range this week.  Picture: UD TRUCKS
ON THE MOVE: UD Trucks has launched its new Cromer range this week. Picture: UD TRUCKS

Taking the road from Parys to Bothaville you had best make sure your life insurance is up to date because for around 90km you are dodging potholes all over the place. I would not want to take on the road after dark.

It is definitely worth it when you arrive though. Nampo is always fantastic and if you think it is just a show for farmers then think again. If you grew up playing with tractors and trucks then you should go, if only to be astonished at the technology.

Hino was one of a number of truck companies at Nampo again in 2017.  Picture: MARK SMYTHPicture: UD TRUCKS
Hino was one of a number of truck companies at Nampo again in 2017. Picture: MARK SMYTHPicture: UD TRUCKS

If you think tech is exciting in the car industry, then you should see what John Deere is up to with its operations centre. There is a mobile app that can monitor all your tractors, ploughing machinery, harvesters and anything else the company provides on the farm, live, in real time.

You can not only see where the equipment is but what it is doing and whether a tractor in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere needs more fuel. You can see what crops are being planted and how long the job will take to complete.

Some vehicles can be programmed to plough a field or plant a crop autonomously. It is all very, very impressive.

As is some of the machinery, of course. You can spend millions on a sports car, or you can spend millions on an enormous tractor from Deere, Case IH, New Holland or Massey Ferguson. It might have huge tractor wheels at the back, or it might have double wheels or even tank-style caterpillar tracks for when you really need to show that field who’s boss.

The truck manufacturers also take the show seriously. Hino put on a big display as did Isuzu Trucks, MAN, Mercedes-Benz, UD Trucks and others. Tata Trucks is also always there but we were surprised to see one of the stars of its stand was not a Tata at all, but a Daewoo.

The new-technology section was of great interest. Residential property has nothing on what is going on in the agricultural sector, particularly when it comes to automation and going off the grid. The farming community is way ahead of us city folk when it comes to this.

The technology modules in the new John Deere operations centre are impressive.  Picture: MARK SMYTH
The technology modules in the new John Deere operations centre are impressive. Picture: MARK SMYTH

Not surprisingly the bakkie manufacturers also put on big displays and there was even a fully kitted out Nissan Navara just weeks after it was launched. Ford had its Ranger but much of the attention on its stand was not on bakkies at all but on the performance models such as the Focus RS and Mustang. Then there were the big American pick-ups that always pull the crowds at US Truck Sales.

The best of the best in livestock shows what the business is all about and then there is the big money-making side of Nampo — merchandise. Rumour has it that the famous John Deere shop sells nearly R1m of merchandise a day — a day!

We were surprised to find a Daewoo truck on the Tata stand.  Picture: MARK SMYTH
We were surprised to find a Daewoo truck on the Tata stand. Picture: MARK SMYTH

Case II has a fan shop too, as does Massey Ferguson. It is worth going to the show just to see how people clamour to get a John Deere babygro.

Another year, another Nampo and again it showed a sector that is facing challenges but is generally doing so with a positive attitude, true community spirit and a firm grasp of the latest technology. We can’t wait for next year.

 

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