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Drone, solar technology startups abound at 2023 Greater Peoria Farm Show

The 2023 Greater Peoria Farm Show at the Peoria Civic Center.
Tim Alexander
The 2023 Greater Peoria Farm Show at the Peoria Civic Center.

The longest-running uninterrupted trade show and event in the 42 year history of the Peoria Civic Center, the Greater Peoria Farm Show, plowed familiar territory but also offered a glimpse at the typical Midwest agricultural operation of the future. Advances in drone technology and renewable energy sources for farming and rural life were in more evidence than ever before, paced by advances in drone application capabilities and new solar energy products scaled for rural homes and businesses.

According to Ron Bormaster, show manager for Midwest Shows, which produces the GPFS and five other U.S. farm shows, six agricultural drone companies were present at the Peoria show, which ran from November 28-30 in the Civic Center’s main exhibition halls and covered over 150,000 square feet.

“I’ve been here for 28 of the show’s 42 years, and when you get something new (in agriculture) it’s going to be at the farm show. We’ve got all the drone companies within 200-300 miles sitting right here in Peoria,” Bormnaster said.

As for renewable energy, local solar energy providers such as Harvest Solar of Champaign were busy educating show patrons about newer, more-compact solar generators and panels for rural homes and farms. Accentuating the new solar technologies available to rural dwellers, a new primary sponsor for the 2023 GPFS was announced: Farmers Powering Communities, a cooperative project focused on preserving America’s productive farm and ranchland while expanding renewable energy.

As usual, agricultural tractors were on display, from the newest, largest models down to smaller garden and orchard varieties with AGCO-FENDT agricultural production tractors sharing space with smaller Kubota BX models and other brands. Bormaster said that when the farm economy is clicking on all cylinders, the Civic Center Convention Hall fills with farmers and other tractor buyers anxious to kick the tires-- or treads-- on the new models.

“If the farmers have good crops and good yields, they will have excess money to make new purchases. (Tractor) sizes are getting bigger, and you’re seeing more of the 260-275 horsepower variety. They’ve gotten more innovative in how they run, and you’ve got more electronics on them. (Farmers) will crawl around and in them to have a look,” he said.

As the first major post-harvest farm show of the season in the Midwest, farmers look forward to seeing the newest offerings from the larger tractor manufacturers that will be available the following season. However, it is the presence of local Illinois manufacturers, retailers and ag service providers-- some of which have been with the show since its inception-- that defines the character of the GPFS.

“That way you get to talk to the guy that’s really selling (a product or service) to you,” said Bormaster. “Several of these products are manufactured right here in Illinois, and I have one family who has been here for 42 years and has been in manufacturing for 80-something years.”

No attendance figures have been released for the 2023 GPFS, though both primary Peoria Civic Center parking lots were at near-capacity on the mornings of both Tuesday, Nov. 28 and Wednesday, Nov. 29.

The GPFS will return to the Peoria Civic Center next November (dates to be announced). Admission and parking for the show is free of charge. For more information on the show, click here.

Tim Alexander is a correspondent for WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.