Culture 3 min read

Why Low-Tech Tractors Are a Hot Commodity in a High-Tech World

Svetlana Foote /

Svetlana Foote /

A recent report suggests that low-tech tractors built in the 1980s or earlier are causing a bidding war at auctions. And no, it’s not because they’re antiques.

Thanks to advancements in technology, farming has become more scientific than it used to be. Farm equipment now comes with remote sensing, GPS, and data analytics abilities.

While automakers are still struggling to create a fully autonomous vehicle, tractors are already there. Not only can these farm machines drive themselves, but they can also control their movements to avoid wasting seed, fertilizer, or fuel.

It’s all about precision.

An expert from the International Food Policy Research suggested that precision agriculture, which technology provides, can increase farm yield by 10 percent. That’s a huge boost considering that the global increase is 1 percent.

However, the demand for low-tech tractors seems to be on the rise, precisely because they’re low-tech.

For example, a Nebraska area auctioneer reportedly sold 27 older models of John Deere tractors in 2019. While the older tractor’s popularity could increase their purchase cost, farmers believe they would save more by avoiding the computer components in newer models.

But why?

Why Farmers are Investing in Low-Tech Tractors in 2020

Like most technology today, newer tractor models now come saddled with a computer that contains a digital rights management (DRM) software.

The good thing about the software is it scans the machine and informs the dealer if something would break. That way, the dealer can warn the farmer ahead of time.

However, the problem arises when something actually breaks.

In a statement, co-founder of a Nebraska-based tractor dealer, BigIron Auctions, Mark Stock said:

“The newer machines, any time something breaks, you’ve got to have a computer to fix it.”

Meaning, a farmer has to wait for a service truck from an authorized dealership to come and fix the tractor. What’s more, the repair cost could be as much as $150 per hour of labor.

The older tractor models, on the other hand, offer cheaper repairs that could extend their life cycle.

“These things, they’re basically bulletproof. You can put 15,000 hours on it, and if something breaks, you can just replace it,Greg Peterson, founder of the farm equipment data company Machinery Pete told StarTribune.

For example, a new motor or transmission for $10,000 to $15,000 could boost an old model tractor for another 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, buying a new tractor could cost between $150,000 and $250,000.

Now you see why farmers are buying low-tech tractors. It goes back to the pride of ownership, says Peterson.

Farmers believe in the right to fix their stuff. And repairing their tractor is a skill that farm owners have spent a lifetime building.

Aside from its high price, the newer tractor model tractors are impossible to repair. That means farmers must depend on an authorized dealer when their machine breaks down, and this raises a feeling of helplessness.

Read More: Robotic Farming is Coming Sooner Than You Think

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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