Tractors and Other Farm Equipment
At our starting point, 100 years ago, virtually all farm work was done by a combination of working animals (usually horses) and manual work by people. This was tremendously slow, inefficient and expensive.
One estimate of the costs of cultivating a 10-hectare field (about 25 acres) in one day is as follows:-
- This area would need 1,700 men with spades, 100 barrels of beer, and cost about £34,000 (they would have to dig 70 sq yards each, which is a lot !)
- Or it would need 25 sets of horse, plough and man and 1 barrel of beer, and cost about £700
- Or, it would need one man with a modern (1980) tractor, a sixpack of beer and cost about £80
These figures are all at 1978 prices. (Current prices would be in proportion, maybe x4)
- A 1929 Fordson model N had a power of 15kW, and could pull a single plough
- A 1945 Fordson model E 27 N tractor had a power of 22kW
- A 1966 Massey Ferguson tractor had 59kW and could pull a reversible 3-furrow plough
- A 1977 Ford FW-30 tractor had 220kW, and was correspondingly able to do more work
The same type of figures also apply to combine harvesters, where it can be even more important to complete the harvest while the weather is good.
Clearly the farmers can do their work more cheaply and quickly with this equipment. However, they also have to make more money to pay for the purchase costs and repairs of the new equipment, so they may have to increase their profit margins, and guarantee to make a profit every year.
There has been a major shift from labour intensive to capital intensive (in many forms of agriculture)
Future. Further expansions into robotics and automation seem unlikely with outdoor agriculture, but with indoor equipment, this is possible, but even higher capital investment will be needed, as the equipment is likely to be highly specialised and built "tailor made" for a client. Satellite technology may open possibilities for measurement and control of nutrients and pests for outdoor crops.