“We believed that the land at the farms, will still be grown and worked, the animals would still be fed. So, in general, the agricultural business has not changed as you have the number of acres and animals that you have, and you still would need to look after them and that hasn’t increased or decreased.”
This theme of constant and continuing really underlines how Andersen and Lamb see that the agricultural tyres business has been less adversely impacted than other sectors such as passenger, truck, and bus tyres. This was illustrated further by the fact that Bridgestone only had to close their manufacturing facilities in Northern Spain for about a week and the very little furlough taken by the company according to Agricultural product manager, Anderson.
We stopped looking back at what 2020 and early 2021 had been and began to look forward to what will be, as Commercial Tyre Business asked Andersen and Lamb about what trends they foresee in the agricultural tyre business and the technology advances they were anticipating in the future.
Smart Tyres, IF and VF Technology and Heavier Tractors
Lamb asserted that besides a general drive towards sustainability and the company’s own focus in driving sustainability and productivity, protecting the environment and being socially responsible, the big trend for the agricultural sector has been for smart and intelligent tyres.
“The trend we see would be more towards smart tyres and not just tyres that are black and round with some air in it. But also what digital information we can bring and what we can couple into the tractor itself as a total mobility solution,” explained Lamb.
“These smart tyres capture data, but also have the ability to maintain the correct footprint, irrespective of whether you change your load, speed, or the terrain or soil type. That’s where one aspect of the future is going in terms of a tyre.”
This trend according to Lamb is being driven by ‘productivity from the farmer’ as they search for more ways to be efficient. This once again led to a key trend that has been identified by every manufacturer that we have spoken to during this feature: bigger, faster, heavier tractors.
Lamb said, “Going forward tractors are going to get bigger and have higher horsepower and with that comes heavier tractors and heavier implements in order to deliver higher productivity and improve profitability.”
How does that impact Bridgestone from a tyre perspective? Lamb had a clear response.
“From a tyre perspective, we're looking at greater surface contact areas. Therefore, we've got the IF and then we've got the VF and then we're looking towards whatever comes next, to get that larger footprint in contact with the ground. One of the strategies we are considering if we can’t go wider, is to go taller in order to achieve that bigger footprint and carrying capacity.”
Andersen agreed with Lamb’s assessment, “I fully agree with you. You’re absolutely right that we are looking at very big tyres. They are getting bigger or taller, because the tractors are getting bigger, and the horsepower continues to go up.”
Andersen moved on to consider the impact of autonomous tractors or robots in the field and how that could impact product development.