Tim Norris: Taking RTK All The Way

Tim Norris, Tom Miller

Tim Norris has covered a pretty wide waterfront since we first visited him three years ago. At the time, Norris was toiling away at a central Ohio cooperative, trying to get a precision agriculture program off the ground. By early the next year, Norris had decided to break out on his own as an independent precision technology consultant and form his own company, Agronomic Information Technology.

Norris had a lot of ideas about precision programs and technology and what could be done with them, and going it alone, while risky, afforded him the opportunity to take it to the limit. One of these big ideas was constructing a real-time kinematic (RTK) global positioning signal (GPS) tower network in central Ohio.

It was an idea that first struck him back at the cooperative when the technology was still in its relative infancy. But as an Ag Leader master service dealer and Trimble authorized dealer, Norris saw the emerging potential benefits of the newly emerging GPS steering technology. Once on his own, he was free to float the idea to grower clients and local ag businesses.

When we talked to him last year, Norris had already signed on partners and was working on getting the RTK network up and running under a partnership organization called CORN Inc., short for Central Ohio RTK Network. CORN today is one of a half-dozen subscription-based RTK networks built out on the flat farmland from central Ohio west to the Indiana border and north into southern Michigan.

In about a year’s time, the group has constructed seven RTK towers and installed several repeaters to extend and strengthen the signal within its coverage area. And there are plans on the board to expand this by two additional sites to cover more territory east and south of the current coverage area.

Growing CORN

The months prior to the formation of CORN Inc. were a period of networking and salesmanship by Norris. Through discussions with growers and businesses he knew well, he was able to assemble enough interest to hold an open meeting to discuss the opportunities and benefits of creating an RTK network.

Included in the meeting were the four groups that would eventually sign on, including three growers and an equipment dealership. Growers Fred and Tom Miller, already familiar with Trimble systems through their own equipment experiences, didn’t want to have to keep moving their base stations around to cover all their field areas, says Norris.

Growers Bob and Jim Case were using Omnistar HP for its high accuracy for automatic steering, and while it worked well most of the time, the signal had a tendency to get cut off in treed areas between fields and at the end of some rows, then take 20 minutes to reconverge.

“They could still use the automatic steering on VBS, but when the HP eventually reconverged they would notice a little shift,” says Norris. “That’s just not acceptable when your main reason for using it is strip-till.”

Linder Farms, another CORN partner, wasn’t doing anything with Norris in particular, but was familiar with John Deere‘s GreenStar signal and knew they wanted more accuracy for strip-till.

The final partner, Burkhart Farm Equipment, is a leading Case IH dealer in Bucyrus. “Ron and Chuck Burkhart put a base station up to help all these guys in the network who are also customers of theirs,” says Norris. It is also leading to sales of Case IH equipment and Trimble automatic steering systems. Case IH equipment supports Trimble guidance, giving both Burkhart and Norris something to talk to local growers about. “Since you can order Case equipment Autosteer-ready for Trimble, it was a natural for them — and of course, my interest is in selling more Trimble equipment.”

The entity CORN Inc. doesn’t actually own anything.”CORN just supplies a signal,” says Norris. “Base stations are owned individually by the partners and leased to CORN Inc. We have agreements with the owners of all the base stations to provide a signal for a period of years, then we’ll renegotiate when term is up — this way, if it ends up not being a success, each partner still owns its own equipment.”

Details, Details

Getting the entities to agree to partner on the system was the first big challenge. The second was gathering all the information needed to set up the system.

“We started by collecting the field boundaries of everyone we knew that was going to be on the network, and determined where the signal boundaries should fall,” says Norris. “Then we did a site survey to see what kinds of structures were out there such as grain storage bins.” While one of the growers did actually build their tower from scratch, for the most part it’s not cost-effective to build a structure to hold the RTK antenna from scratch. “The structure could easily end up costing as much or more than the base station.”

Once the antenna is up, each of the partners is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their individual antenna and repeaters, and each partner has at least one of each. If a partner’s area requires more than one repeater, they are responsible for the additional hardware as well. “I would generally be the one to make any repairs on the system, but financially it is ultimately their responsibility,” Norris notes.

With the system now up and running, growers within the service area can now purchase a subscription from any of the partners. “Basically, we take a contract out to a grower to sign that contains their radio serial number, and that number is entered into the base station they will operate from,” says Norris. This acts as a password allowing the user exclusive access to the RTK signal.

The subscription money goes into CORN Inc., and all money collected through year’s end is either distributed to the partners, or reinvested into expansion and/or maintenance of the system as decided by vote of the partners.

Working It Out

As far as the system itself, this first season of being up and running has been a period of trial and error for its users. Each of the six towers is owned by one of the CORN partners, who make up a diverse group of progressive people in central Ohio agriculture.

For example, four of the grower partners, Bob Case, Jim Case, Miller Farms, and Linder Farms, are using RTK to do true, high-accuracy strip-tillage this season. The yield results aren’t in yet, but Tom Miller is sold on its benefits.

“I really can’t imagine trying to do this anymore without the RTK steering,” Miller says. In addition to the steering package, the Millers upgraded to all new Case IH tractors, including an STX325, an STX500, and an MX285. The new fleet provides a horsepower boost that, coupled with the RTK steering, increases efficiency and accuracy and is expected to make strip-till really shine once the harvest is in and counted.

Linder Farms is also interested in maximizing the benefits of strip-tillage. This season Linder stripped all its corn plantings and is beginning the data collection process that will hopefully lead to higher yields and improved profitability.

Still, Norris says it’s the improved efficiency and reduced fatigue that users keep talking about.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of PrecisionAg Special Reports.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Tim Norris: Taking RTK All The Way

  1. Allow us to provide you with a RTK tower guote for a future site. We manufacture RTK towers that feature all welded solid rod sections that are stought & slender in stature which do not need the endless mntce that other types of RTK towers need.

  2. Allow us to provide you with a RTK tower guote for a future site. We manufacture RTK towers that feature all welded solid rod sections that are stought & slender in stature which do not need the endless mntce that other types of RTK towers need.

Data Management Stories
Soil testing
Data ManagementOpinion: Soil Testing Needs Sensors To Get More Accurate
February 17, 2017
We are entering a very exciting time in agriculture. With so many great software platforms and data collection tools we Read More
Data ManagementJANZEN LAW BLOG: Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms at Center of America’s First Ag Data Case
February 14, 2017
A number of poultry growers have filed suit against Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, and other poultry integrators alleging that growers’ Read More
Field Sky Beauty shot
Data ManagementField to Market Announces New Metrics Platform Integrations
February 9, 2017
Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture today announced a comprehensive integration between the sustainability metrics and algorithms of Read More
Data ManagementNew Partnership Between AgIntegrated, CDMS, SeediQ Will Create Single Source Reference Data API
January 18, 2017
AgIntegrated, Inc. (AGI), CDMS, Inc. and SeediQ announce a partnership to develop, promote, and sell a single-source crop input reference Read More
Trending Articles
Connected Farm Scout Trimble Agriculture - featured image
Decision Support Software17 Field Scouting Apps For Precision Agriculture
February 6, 2017
There are dozens of easy-to-use mobile apps that are ideal for every day field scouting tasks. From record keeping and Read More
John Deere Dealership
Business ManagementAg Retailer, Equipment Dealer Improve Service By Working Together
January 27, 2017
Some believe that in many aspects of life, timing is everything. Among those believers, please count Randy Bartholomew, Integrated Solutions Read More
Innovation SeriesPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 25, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Terry Griffin
Business ManagementUsing High Tech To Make Farm Decisions
January 17, 2017
Raj Khosla, professor of precision agriculture at Colorado State University, challenged farmers to think about how far the technology of Read More
PrecisionAg.com featured image
ProfessionalsWelcome to the Newly Enhanced PrecisionAg.com
December 29, 2016
Talk a quick look around our website and we hope you’ll notice it’s significantly different as we head into 2017 Read More
Ryan Raguse and Matthew Grassi
ProfessionalsIndustry Executives Talk New PrecisionAg Professional Brand
December 19, 2016
EFC Systems President and CEO Ernie Chappell Myriad Mobile Cofounder and Chairman Ryan Raguse Read More
Latest News
Case IH - AFS AccuStar and UAV Offering - Magnum MX210 AccuStar Receiver
DronesCase IH Adds New GPS Solution, UAV Package To AFS Offer…
February 21, 2017
Driven by the growing demand for efficient data management, the latest Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) solutions from Case IH help Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Systems ManagementBayer Enters Farm Recommendations Arena With Yara Colla…
February 20, 2017
Crop protection and ag biotech giant Bayer and fertilizer producer Yara International ASA have entered into a software collaboration and Read More
Hort TechGrowingProduce.com: Smart Vineyards Set to Revolutioniz…
February 17, 2017
Phil Asmundson is by no means a veteran viticulturist, but a half-dozen years ago, after watching his wife and business Read More
Soil testing
Data ManagementOpinion: Soil Testing Needs Sensors To Get More Accurat…
February 17, 2017
We are entering a very exciting time in agriculture. With so many great software platforms and data collection tools we Read More
Australian Harvest
Decision Support SoftwareGarden City Co-op Added as MZB Regional Mapping Center;…
February 17, 2017
Garden City Co-op (GCC), through a retailer agreement, has been using MZB Technologies as their precision ag platform for a Read More
DronesLand O’Lakes Drone Challenge Crowdsourcing Compet…
February 17, 2017
Land O’Lakes, Inc. is calling on innovators from the tech industry to enter the Land O’Lakes Prize: Drone Challenge, a Read More
DronesDrone Startup Hits VC Jackpot: Skyward Acquired by Veri…
February 16, 2017
Building on its strategy to drive innovation and adoption for IoT services in high-growth markets, Verizon today announced that it Read More
GuidanceCase IH Launches AccuTurn Automated Headland-Turning Te…
February 15, 2017
New AccuTurn automated headland-turning technology from Case IH takes the guesswork out of turning on headlands, which gives you improved Read More
ProfessionalsDeere Details New Connect Mobile App, C850 Air Cart
February 15, 2017
To help growers monitor, adjust and learn from the performance of their planter or sprayer while it moves through the Read More
drones, UAVs, DJI, Aerial Imagery
DronesNDVI Imagery Under $5K? Sentera Outfitting DJI Phantom …
February 15, 2017
Sentera today announced its ability to convert a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone into a precision scouting tool that collects Read More
Wheat sunrise
Systems ManagementNew Holland Announces New Product Launches
February 15, 2017
New Holland Agriculture expands its product offering with the introduction of three Precision Land Management technologies, PLM Drone Data Management, Read More
Data ManagementJANZEN LAW BLOG: Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms at Center of…
February 14, 2017
A number of poultry growers have filed suit against Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, and other poultry integrators alleging that growers’ Read More
Southern States grower in cab
Innovation SeriesPrecision Agriculture: A Place For Everyone At The Tabl…
February 13, 2017
Over the last 30 days, I’ve been immersed in all things precision agriculture. If you received your personal copy of Read More
Farmer and computer
ProfessionalsPassionate Precision Agriculture Writers Wanted To Join…
February 10, 2017
About The Opportunity: PrecisionAg.com is looking for people to join our team and submit original content to our website about Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Sensors/IoTIoT Will Transform The Agriculture Supply Chain –…
February 10, 2017
Supply chain visibility and efficiency is a big part of running a profitable agricultural business. There are a variety of Read More
Field Sky Beauty shot
Data ManagementField to Market Announces New Metrics Platform Integrat…
February 9, 2017
Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture today announced a comprehensive integration between the sustainability metrics and algorithms of Read More
AGCO White planter 9800VE
Tools & Smart EquipmentAGCO Introduces High Speed White 9800VE Series Planters
February 8, 2017
AGCO Corp., a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment, is bringing to market White Planters™ 9800VE Series planters equipped Read More
World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit Panel 2016
Ag Tech GlobalWorld Agri-Tech Innovation Summit To Be Held In San Fra…
February 8, 2017
“Breakthrough Applications and Business Models for Sustainable Farming” is the theme of the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit to be held Read More