ISU-licensed tech wins big at international ag expo

John Deere combines during harvest

Technology developed at Iowa State and licensed to John Deere for use in harvesting equipment will receive three innovation awards at a prestigious global ag expo next week. Larger image. Photo courtesy of John Deere.

AMES, Iowa – Technology developed at Iowa State University and licensed to John Deere will receive three innovation awards at one of the world’s most prestigious agricultural technology conventions next week.

The three innovation “Silver Medal” awards will be presented at AGRITECHNICA 2015, a global showcase of ag machinery in Hannover, Germany, set to run November 10-14. The award-winning innovations, all of which involve the operation of harvesting equipment, include John Deere Active Yield, John Deere Integrated Combine Adjustment2 (ICA2), and the John Deere Active Fill Control Sync.

The award-winning technologies incorporated the contributions of a research team led by Matthew Darr, an associate professor in the ISU Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. The Iowa State University Research Foundation (ISURF) worked with John Deere to license the technology to the iconic ag machinery manufacturer.

Darr, who specializes in the design and production of advanced ag machinery technology, noted that the licensing of these technologies to John Deere illustrates Iowa State’s commitment to turn advances in research into market-ready solutions that strengthen the industry and create customer value.

“As these awards demonstrate, Iowa State University is a leader in the transfer of technology to industry,” Darr said. “Iowa State is eliminating the barriers that keep our advances and research from getting into the market and making a difference for producers.”

The ISU technologies to be highlighted at AGRITECHNICA include:  

-- John Deere Active Yield A computer algorithm that automatically calibrates the combine yield monitor. This improves yield data accuracy by allowing the combine to adjust automatically the calibration and compensate for crop changes during the season.

-- John Deere Integrated Combine Adjustment2 (ICA2) – Integrated combine adjustment allows a combine operator to set standards for the quality of the material being harvested. The machine controller will automatically adjust settings such as rotor and fan speeds to maintain the quality of the grain.

-- John Deere Active Fill Control Sync – The active fill control system utilizes a camera to make it easier for an operator to direct the chute of a forage harvester into a wagon or trailer traveling alongside. This technology minimizes field losses and improves the overall logistics of the operation.

ISURF and Iowa State’s Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer work in concert to extend ISU research beyond the laboratory and into the marketplace. ISURF has entered into 345 commercial agreements in the past five years and ranked 70th in the world among universities granted U.S. utility patents in 2014.

ISURF Executive Director Lisa Lorenzen praised the kind of innovation that led to the AGRITECHNICA awards.

“The unique relationship with Deere takes the innovation from the bench to commercialization, with innovative licensing solutions that allow this transfer to happen at the speed of business,” Lorenzen said. “This multi-faceted relationship is a great example of our missions of education, research and economic development coming together to benefit the world.”

Darr said the projects go beyond technology development. The research and development process at Iowa State also provided opportunities for students to gain practical experience by participating in the research.

In all, a total of 28 ISU employees contributed to the three projects. The ISU contribution to the integrated combine adjustment system included expertise on grain quality and large-scale data analytics. And ISU personnel turned the active yield algorithm over to John Deere as a virtually complete and fully integrated product, Darr said.

“ISU is unique in our ability to translate fundamental research into licensed technology,” he said. “The level of industry partnership really inspires our team to be innovative and contribute to long-term success in agriculture.”

In addition to the three AGRITECHNICA silver medals that reflected the contributions of Iowa State University, John Deere also was awarded seven more silver medals for a total of 10. John Deere also was awarded three AGRITECHNICA gold medals. A neutral panel of experts selected the award recipients from a field of 311 submissions.