With rolling green fields covering huge swathes of the United Kingdom, it’s pretty easy to see how important the agriculture industry is to the country. Indeed, agriculture in general is hugely important around the world when it comes to feeding people and livestock. It’s also pretty big business, making the UK around £9.9 billion pounds every year and employing hundreds of thousands of highly skilled farm workers.
However, while agriculture has always been vital to human development, it also never used to be this easy. With the array of highly specialised farming machinery, from combine harvesters to track loaders, the act of farming has been transformed from its origins of back-breaking labour to a highly efficient agricultural operation.
Yet, if one was to define the most essential invention for the agricultural industry, many would mention the tractor. Acting as the workhorse of pretty much any farming operation, tractors have become synonymous with the agricultural industry and have revolutionized how we tend the land.
These huge examples of mechanical and hydraulic mastery have had a remarkable impact on farming over the last 130 years. With this in mind, we decided to take a closer look at how the humble tractor revolutionized agriculture.
For much of human history, the success of a farm has relied on the strength of the people and animals working the field. This was of course a pretty time-consuming endeavour, meaning that farming before the industrial revolution was subsistence-based. This basically meant that farmers would only produce enough food for themselves and their community, rather than on a wider, national scale.
However, thanks to the start of the agricultural and industrial revolution, innovations in farming techniques and processes began to become much more efficient, which in turn freed up more time for farmers. Inventions such as the seed drill made the laborious task of planting infinitely easier while other innovations increased the overall yield a farmer could produce.
With increased mechanisation, many jobs in agriculture became obsolete, pushing farmers to the cities in search of work. This inevitably led to the growth in the industrial revolution, which would bring even more innovations to the agricultural industry over time.
The very first farm machines were known as portable engines; these were basically steam engines on wheels that would drive farming machinery. One of the first of these kinds of machines was known as the ‘barn engine’ which was used to drive corn threshing machines. Later in the19th century, steam powered tractor-like vehicles began to be used in farms throughout the UK; It would be these engines that would act as the precursors to the first tractor.
The first petrol powered tractor engine was designed and developed by Iowa-based inventor John Froelich in 1892. His previous steam-powered thresher was costly to maintain and extremely dangerous to use due to its tendency to explode. On the other hand, his newer gasoline-powered machine allowed for heightened efficiency without the safety concerns.
This move to gasoline powered tractor machinery became the industry standard from the early 20th century onwards and, with production levels increasing thanks to innovations from the likes of Henry Ford and other big car manufacturers of the time, the early 1900s saw the start of tractors being sold on a commercial basis.
This move toward the tractor as an alternative to human and animal power changed the game for agriculture. Rather than relying on horses or oxen that need to be fed and rested, tractors provided farmers with a level of productivity never seen before. Fields that were used for grazing work animals could now be repurposed and, with innovations in industry, tractors became more and more efficient, especially when hydraulic components began to be used.
The first use of hydraulics in agricultural machinery can be found in the Ferguson Three-Point Hitch tractor. Made in the early 20the century, this tractor would be this hydraulic system that would act as the start of hydraulic technology being used in tractors and a range of agricultural machinery to this day. Yet, how exactly is hydraulic technology used in agriculture?
Much like the workhorses of old, hydraulic systems are able to move and lift extremely heavy materials, much like in a range of other industries. However, agricultural hydraulic systems are somewhat unique, as they must be adaptable and versatile to fit the many applications they are required for.
Luckily, with the advancement of computer technology, hydraulic systems installed into tractors have become even more efficient. Some don’t even require the flick of a switch to work, instead using sensors to carry out the application with superior accuracy.
Without hydraulic systems, the average tractor would be nowhere near as beneficial as it currently is, yet, what advantages do hydraulic systems actually offer to the agricultural industry?
As we’ve said many times throughout this article, hydraulic systems have made the agricultural industry drastically more efficient. Thanks to fluid dynamics, hydraulic systems provide tractors and other farming machinery with a high-powered, constant force, regardless of the speed of the fluid. This means that applications that would be too much even for multiple workhorses can be easily carried out by a hydraulic system.
This has allowed for superior levels of efficiency on the farm, which has, in turn, allowed us to easily keep the population fed.
Farming can be a dangerous job, however, thanks to hydraulics, farmers are safer than they have ever been. Thanks to the fact that, by using highly specialized hydraulic machinery, farmers are able to cut their work hours down, the likelihood of an accident is greatly diminished.
Also, with safety being a primary concern of any quality hydraulics designer, all components are built with durability and reliability in mind. All of this helps to ensure that the essential work that farmers carry out is as safe as possible.
Like everything in life, food costs us money. Luckily, with hydraulic machinery making planting, growing and harvesting easier and more efficient than ever before, more food is able to be grown at a much quicker pace. All of this aids in the dropping of prices at your local supermarket.
Tractors have been an essential component in keeping the agricultural industry working at optimum efficiency. However, without hydraulic technology, we may not have been able to reach the levels of power and efficiency we have today in this sector.
Hydraulics have been a huge part of not only the agricultural industry’s success but also a range of other market sectors that rely on the array of benefits this technology has to offer. Here at HP Hydraulics, we understand how important it is for job sectors such as agriculture, the military and heavy industry to have quality hydraulic systems and components to rely on and with our professional services, we can help to ensure that.
Working from our headquarters in Fareham, we’ve designed, manufactured and installed highly efficient hydraulic systems across a wide variety of industries. Every component we create is extremely durable and fit-for purpose, meaning you can rest assured you’re getting an excellent level of quality.
For more information on how HP Hydraulics can help, get in touch with one of our advisors on 01329 828 877 to discuss your requirements, or visit our website to learn more about our services.