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The Fendt 200 series can more than hold its own in this weight class.

Strickhof Education and Competence Centre, Switzerland - Fendt 211, 312, 716 Vario, Farmer 250S

The Fendt 200 series can more than hold its own in this weight class.

Renting instead of buying

Every four years, the Swiss Strickhof Education and Competence Centre changes its main fleet tractor brand. At present, apprentices, students and attendees of advanced training courses drive Fendt machines. We went along to the centre near Zurich and saw for ourselves that regardless of Swiss neutrality. everyone seems to like Fendt tractors!

“The all-rounder” – that’s how Michael Möckli likes to describe this powerful little tractor. The deputy cultivation and workshop manager especially enjoys the machine’s compact design, manoeuvrability and dynamic performance. This all-rounder of which Michael Möckli speaks is a 111 HP Fendt 211 Vario. Two years ago, the small tractor, together with a Fendt 312 Vario and 716 Vario, was delivered to the oldest existing farming college in Switzerland, the Strickhof. Since then, the three tractors have been used by the competence centre as support in cultivation, general operations and as training machines.

Four sites make up the education and research department of the state competence centre for training and services in agriculture and the food industry. The three Fendt tractors are used mainly on the main Lindau site, where most of the 4,549 students and advanced course attendees are trained. Alongside the administration buildings, campus and halls of residence, the site houses the new innovative “AgroVet-Strickhof ” livestock centre. A state-of- the-art agricultural education and research facility with dairy, fattening and other cattle sheds, which is used for research and educational purposes by Strickhof trainees as well as students from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. Around 45 hectares of arable land, 20 hectares of grassland, a four hectare orchard, and a vegetable garden make Strickhof Lindau an ideal place for study and research, and the perfect place to put the three Varios to good use.

More than just tractors

Most tractors have three main tasks – pulling, shunting, transporting, and that’s just what they do at Strickhof, though the competence centre itself has one main purpose – to teach, educate and inform. The small Fendt 211 Vario, the Fendt 312 Vario and the powerful Fendt 716 Vario therefore also act as training and demonstration vehicles for trainees, students, and conference and course attendees.

What are the advantages of these machines for students? “Oh that has to be the continuously- variable gearbox,” says Robert Sonderegger, operations manager for crop cultivation. “I recently did some mowing with a student, and all he had to do was adjust the machine and speed,” says Robert Sonderegger. “He only needs to put his foot down and then concentrate fully on mowing.”

Stephan Berger from the Agricultural Engineering and Accident Prevention department.

Stephan Berger also appreciates Fendt tractors because they complement the range of technology in machines and vehicles at Strickhof. He has been working at Strickhof for the past 11 years in the Agricultural Engineering and Accident Prevention department. As a trainer and advisor in Agricultural Engineering however, he does see challenges in innovative technology. “These are high-tech machines which have to be explained very carefully to students,” says Berger. “With these tractors in particular, we must make sure that students don’t get the impression that they represent the general, normal level of technology.” For this reason, demonstrations and courses always include older operating machines.

All-round use

The three Fendt tractors are mainly used in normal agricultural operations at Strickhof Lindau. With 1,108 running hours, the Fendt 211 Vario is among the most frequently-used tractors at Strickhof. “The Fendt 200 series can more than hold its own in this weight class,” thinks Michael Möckli. “Indeed, the continuously-variable gearbox, the front axle suspension and compressed air system were all unique selling points for this size of tractor when we were looking to choose one.” The 211 is closely followed by the Fendt 312 Vario with 926 running hours. This is also used for a range of applications, mostly with the 3-share plough, mower combination, muck spreader or for transport work. The Fendt 716 Vario is preferred for transporting liquid manure, drill combinations, or sugar beet transport. Sometimes lots of power is required even in small countries like Switzerland.

Deliberately neutral

An internal selection committee makes the decision on which brand will constitute the main fleet at Strickhof for four years. Using a points system, the impartial and lengthy selection process determines which machine brand can best meet the needs of the centre for the next four years. “It is of course a considerable challenge to keep on changing the tractors,” explains Strickhof director Ueli Voegeli. “However, as an educational institution, we are also obliged to remain impartial and want to show our students different brands and the latest technologies, and the same brands don’t always have the latest technology.” In two years’ time then, Strickhof will again decide to “rent instead of buy”, so that it always has state-of-the-art machines as part of its tractor fleet.

As a trainer, Michael Möckli is well aware that students often have preconceived ideas about individual brands. “Generally speaking, tractors are quite an emotive subject,” says the Swiss trainer, smiling. “Most students are either for or against a particular brand, but Fendt tractors are quite popular of course.”

5 Questions to Strickhof Director, Ueli Voegeli

Mr Voegeli, what makes Strickhof so special?

“We have a long history and we are the oldest existing agricultural college in Switzerland. From the very start for example, we have established a close link between agriculture and the food industry, that’s why we are a market leader in this field here in Switzerland.”

Which topics will come to the fore in future with regard to training farmers?

“One burning issue will be learning, teaching and working in a digital environment. Of course that doesn’t only apply to agriculture, but we do want to be pioneers in this field. Resource efficiency is also a huge issue, in other words, how can I produce food at a profit and at the same time use water, air, and soil as efficiently as possible and protect animal welfare.

What is the biggest challenge at present for young farmers?

“One of major challenges is in choosing a career: What do I want? How hard do I want to work? What do I want to earn? To answer all this, you need to think out of the box. It’s not easy because the farming profession is also constantly changing. Previously, you had to be say, a good milker, but in future you’ll have to be a good data manager.

Does Swiss agriculture lack new talent or managers?

“It’s not a matter of quantity, but quality. We need people in farming who think like entrepreneurs. That’s where we have a deficit, but this is also something of a generational issue.

Your hopes for Swiss farming?

“At present, farming in Switzerland is quite small-scale and heavily regulated by government. There should be opportunities to expand farms and to loosen the constraints of government control.”