TECHNOLOGY CONTINUES to answer the increasingly complex questions posed by agriculture today, but for Tim Slater, who has been around the industry his whole life, it’s the simple solutions, often devised with the least resources, that still intrigue him.
Mr Slater is the product manager for hay and harvest for Case IH Australia/New Zealand, a company he started working for fresh out of university 18 years ago.
From a graduate position in logistics, he then moved into the service side of the business where he assumed responsibility for a number of varied product ranges before settling on combines, fronts, and cotton harvesters.
He left Case IH for a brief period before being offered a technical training role with Case IH’s parent company CNH industrial, a position that would take him around the world and demonstrate that while agriculture may look a bit different depending on where you are, the motivation for farmers is the same: find the best solution for maximising efficiency and productivity.
“It was a great learning experience because what you find is there’s so many different ways people go about solving a problem, and some of the most ingenious solutions I’ve seen have come from the least amount of resources,” Mr Slater said.
“There are a lot of smart people around the world who think very differently to solve the same problems, and the best solution is not necessarily the one that costs the most money and involves the best piece of engineering; sometimes the simplest stuff works the best.”
Mr Slater has worked in many parts of the world including China, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and the Pacific, and his career at Case IH has been equally diverse, returning to the company’s St Mary’s, Sydney, headquarters in 2010 after his training stint, and taking on the role of product specialist for precision farming and guidance, at a time when the business was starting to expand in that direction.
His current product manager role began in 2013, responsible for hay and harvest equipment including balers and Case IH’s Axial-Flow combines, the machine that revolutionised harvesting just over 40 years ago.
The revolution in agriculture equipment has continued full-throttle since then, and he still marvels at the changes within the industry in a relatively short period of time.
“If I look at growing up on the farm through the early to mid-80s and what we had then, to where we are today, that’s 30-plus years of innovation,” Mr Slater said.
“We’ve seen incredible change come through, from combine seeders to air seeders, through to precision planting, and the evolution in tractors, from 200 hp up to 400 hp and now 600 hp tractors.”
“But what’s more amazing is our market has gone through these advances in 30 years – I’ve been to places where they go through that in five. They go from what we had in the 80s to what we have now in one machine jump, not four.”