An Unusual invitation arrived in our offices this spring, offering a rare opportunity to attend a “Plugfest” hosted by the University of Nebraska.

A Plugfest? What the heck is a Plugfest?

It turns out that, at a Plugfest, competing manufacturers of ag equipment meet to test whether their equipment can “talk” to each other through an ISOBUS connection.

Here was a chance to see a different side of the competitive ag equipment business. All those engineers from competing companies working together toward the same goal would be a story in itself. Surely there would be fireworks, or breakdowns, or something exciting to report.

And there was, but it wasn't about breakdowns, or what the engineers call “breaking the [ISO]bus.” Instead, the Plugfest was a success. Companies can work together to make sure competitive equipment is compatible. For example, we watched the first time the electronic controls from a particular Case IH sprayer was hooked into a John Deere control terminal. Everything worked fine. We even videotaped it hoping for some kind of adverse reaction. But there was none.

This kind of activity went on all day. Engineers rotated their companies' electronics around the room to test on competitive terminals. If there were problems, they discussed solutions.

While the Plugfest provided no explosions (from the machines or the participants), it was exciting. It proved that, in spite of the highly competitive ag equipment environment, the machinery companies can still work together for the benefit of their customers. As a result of their efforts, you no longer have to stick to one brand of equipment. You now have the opportunity to buy what works best for you.