Precision Product Review 2009

Ag Leader

Ag Leader is going into the 2009 season with a pair of new product offerings. First up is the Edge display. A new entry-level precision farming display, the EDGE combines a greater level of simplicity with SeedCommand, DirectCommand, and yield monitoring capabilities to meet the year-round needs of today’s precision farming operation.

Engineered with a rugged, moisture-resistant design, the EDGE display features an enhanced operator experience with an easy-to-use interface and 6.5-inch color touchscreen. The EDGE display supports Ag Leader’s AutoSwath feature, allowing growers to increase operation efficiency by automatically turning applicators or planter sections on and off based on field maps or already applied/planted areas and to automatically adjust swath width of combines during harvest. Real-time mapping and data logging of field operations help producers to better observe field variations as they happen. Prescription maps for variable-rate application and seeding give operators the opportunity to tailor applications to their fields.

“We are very proud to present growers with a year-round solution that strengthens their operation. The EDGE display offers compatibility with Ag Leader’s SeedCommand, DirectCommand, yield monitoring, and SMS software products, all while maintaining the user-friendliness that operators desire,” says Product Manager Matt Leinen. “EDGE fits any operation, but especially those producers just starting in precision farming or precision farming veterans who wish to add another display to their operation.”

Consistent with other Ag Leader products, the EDGE display can be moved from vehicle to vehicle for operations throughout the growing season. In addition, the EDGE display is plug compatible with Ag Leader’s powerful InSight display, making an upgrade to the InSight display a seamless transition.

“EDGE provides producers with a simple and economical first step in precision farming. With its plug compatibility to the InSight display, upgrading is easy.” adds Leinen. “Customers have demanded an alternative like the EDGE display and we are happy to deliver a product to meet their needs.”

The second new item from Ag Leader involves new features for the SeedCommand planter control system. This includes an additional section of clutch control, which can now support up to 36 sections of planter clutch control. Along with this new capability, Ag Leader will now support row-by-row section control on 30-inch rows. The outside sections of the planter must have two rows to minimize skips due to GPS or implement drift and changes in terrain.

In addition, SeedCommand’s planter monitoring feature is now supported for all planters equipped with the following seed tube sensors: KINZE, DICKEY-john Standard, DICKEY-john High-Rate, or John Deere AccuCount. This includes, but is not limited to planter manufacturers such as Case IH, John Deere, KINZE, and White. Planter monitoring functionality allows growers to replace existing planter monitors. The system will monitor and log average population and seed spacing.

Also, SeedCommand now supports PWM and motorized servo hydraulic valves, as well as KINZE and Rawson AccuRate hydraulic drives. This feature will allow growers to control variable-rate seeding from the tractor cab, while at the same time reduce cab clutter. Each hydraulic motor can have independent rate control, hybrid/variety logging and as-planted rate maps.”Our goal is to help growers get the most out of the seed they plant, in addition to making their operation run smoothly,” says Product Specialist Will Cannon. “We are excited to present these new features that eliminate monitors in the tractor cab, as well as offer increased planter
control and operation efficiency.”

GVM

GVM has entered the precision agriculture marketplace with its Telematics software. The first in a suite of GVM AgJunction software, Telematics is a one-stop shop for data management, software, and hardware, according to GVM Owner Mark Anderson. It is specifically designed for the ag industry to be “a flexible, Web-based system that allows users to manage moving and stationary equipment, field data, work orders, and give a comprehensive report” on all of these components, says Anderson.

Hemisphere GPS

According to Jeff Farrar, ground ag marketing manager, Hemisphere GPS, is introducing a new product for the 2009 season called the Out­back Sts.

“This is the latest addition to the company’s Outback Guidance line of precision farming guidance systems,” says Farrar. “It combines the most popular features of the Outback S2 with a 7-inch, high-resolution color touchscreen to offer simplified operation.”

Outback Sts display and electronically integrated Outback Steering Guide uses GPS data and specific job details to provide real-time job data and precision guidance. It features a variety of easy-to-use guidance patterns and the ability to set and adjust guidance lines. It also boasts a wide array of job management options, including setting perimeters, dropping mark flags, creating job templates, and recording job-specific notes such as the type of crop, the wind direction, and temperature. All this information can be stored on the system internal memory or the data can be conveniently transferred via the USB port. All of these features are powered by Crescent, the company’s advanced patented GPS
receiver technology.

“Outback Sts is designed to be expandable and work with a variety of other Outback Guidance products,” adds Farrar. “The functionality of Outback Sts is ex­panded by Outback eDriveTC GPS assisted steering system, which uses GPS technology to automatically steer the tractor, resulting in more uniform treatments and less waste.”

Outback Sts also works with Outback AutoMate,an automatic boom control system that monitors and controls individual sprayer sections to minimize overlaps and skips.

OmniStar

“As far as OmniSTAR is concerned, we expect the enthusiastic uptake of autosteer and steering assist to continue,” says John Pointon, marketing manager for the company. “The benefits of this technology are immediately apparent, the systems are fully developed and are normally both reliable and easy to use. We’ve come a long way in two years and the prices are
very reasonable.”

In addition to these market trends, says Pointon, Om­niSTAR continues to implement improvements to its services. “Recent developments will improve initial acquisition and convergence time and reduce problems, which may arise from signal blockage,” he says.

Raven Industries

According to Kristin Tilus, marketing coordinator for Raven Industries Flow Controls Division, 2009 holds plenty of promise for precision agriculture. “In 2009, successful precision products will maximize returns and gain operational efficiencies in planting, spraying, and fertilizing,” says Tilus. “With today’s economy, the most popular products may be new technology applied to existing equipment to keep cost outlays to a minimum while achieving large-scale precision advances. Although basic guidance is still a major player in the precision market, a complete precision solution including assisted steering, variable-rate, automatic boom section, and boom height control has great potential for growth. These precision agriculture technologies have evolved to the point where they are very reliable, cost-effective, and simple to operate, generating a very favorable return on investment.”

To this end, she adds, Raven has a broad precision agriculture product line including field computers, guidance, application controls, boom section controls, and planting controls. This allows the company to combine many of its different technologies together into singular, complete systems. Several new products will be introduced this year with a focus on helping users work smarter, reduce input costs, increase yields, and boost profitability. “With this expansion, Raven will be in a position to tailor-fit the needs of any operation,” says Tilus.

Also in the Raven line-up is the Envizio Pro multi-function field computer. “This is the perfect interface for tying different system functions together — and achieving greater efficiency, performance and savings,” says Tilus. “For a simple switch to automatic section control, pair up the Envizio Pro with the new Switch Pro console. Switch Pro provides improved spraying efficiency and savings while reducing cab clutter.”

Based on the popularity of AccuBoom, she adds, Raven has introduced a wireless remote control unique to the industry that allows operators to check nozzles from the back of the sprayer to save time, money and chemicals. AccuRow takes the same section control technology found in AccuBoom and integrates it with planters to avoid cross-planting, no-plant zones, and wasted seed.

“This spring, Raven will also sponsor an online suite of tools designed to organize field data, supply mapping services, and provide remote support all through a field computer’s wireless capabilities,” says Tilus. “Instantly send data back and forth between the cab and any computer via the Raven Field Hub wireless router.”

Rawson Control Systems

Now becoming part of the Trimble family, Rawson will continue to support its ACCU-RATE controller. The Rawson unit is versatile, as it can be mounted on a planter or use it on a Strip-Till applicator or a piston pump. The ACCU-RATE variable-rate controller is compatible with most GPS/GIS, helping the user to use what they already have, again saving time and money, says Sharon Gauquie, sales manager for the company.

Spraying Systems Co./TeeJet Technologies

According to the company, Spraying Systems has released a software upgrade, v1.07, for its CenterLine 230BP and BoomPilot products. The feature enhancements of this program include allowing the drive sensitivity to be changed in the system setup menu, a system setting for GPS Source, and DGPS LED activation will now cycle through a two-minute delay for the purpose of stabilizing DGPS performance.

In other news, TeeJet Technologies has partnered with Leica Geosystems to jointly market each company’s products. “TeeJet has a long history of building high quality application equipment and control technologies,” says Rich Gould, vice president of product strategy for the company. “The addition of Leica’s RTK system and Virtual Wrench technology strengthens our product line and gives our customers easy access to the latest in high precision RTK positioning.”

SST

According to Mark Waits, marketing manager for SST Development Group, Inc., the company sees challenges and opportunities ahead in 2009. “There is an emerging need for devices to talk to one another with little or no file management by the user,” says Waits. “In time, we think a desktop computer and an in-field device will be able to wirelessly and synchronously exchange data. When that happens, seed and variable rate fertility recommendations, crop plans, etc. will flow seamlessly from an agronomist’s desktop computer to a grower or applicator in the field. All as-applied data could “sync” back to the agronomist creating a true collaborative record keeping system that will yield a lot of valuable information for growers.”

To facilitate this need, SST continues to improve its data communication standards, the AgX Platform. “It is a robust and highly efficient standardized reference database that is included in the SST Summit family of software products as well as in our on-demand data processing service, FarmRite,” says Waits. “Through this platform, all of our Summit and FarmRite customers can use a delivery system called SyncNow to synchronize their databases with others. Growers and the ag professionals that work with them are collaboratively collecting data and analyzing the information together to better understand how to be more successful in the future.” In time, he adds, SST expects the AgX Platform to be made available in field devices to allow the seamless data communication that the industry lacks today.

Topcon Positioning Systems

For 2009, Topcon is featuring a pair of new systems. First, there is the System 110. This guidance system is designed with a full-color display and detachable lightbar, allowing for optimum placement and visual references, according to the company. Also, instead of being limited to fixed patterns, System 110 features Topcon’s intuitive software, which allows the user to create and follow the most efficient/practical guidance.

The other new product from Topcon is the System 150. This consists of the company’s GX-45 console and AGI-3 receiver, which can be used with WAAS, EGNOS, OmniStar VBS/XP/HP, and RTK signals for increased accuracy. The system allows users to perform automatic steering functions and autosection control, which can control up to 10 sections to minimize skips and maximize coverage.

Trimble

The January announcement that Trimble had acquired Rawson Controls came too late for any major changes in the near term. There will be a process of integration of Rawson into the Trimble “family” before anything definite can be said about future products from the companies, but it is known that Rawson will continue to operate as a separate group. The Trimble name will be integrated into literature and onto Rawson products over time, but the Rawson name is being retained in the near term.

For Trimble, with the acquisition of Rawson, preceded by the purchase of planter clutch manufacturer Tru Count in 2008, it’s been a busy 12 months.

In January, the company added several new products and enhancements to its line of offerings:

The AgGPS FmX, the next generation in-cab display, was introduced to replace the high-end Farm Manager unit. Headline news for the FmX is its two built-in Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers, allowing a user to control a vehicle and a pulled implement with just the single display unit.

The FmX also features a larger touchscreen — 12.1 inches — 35% larger than the industry standard 10.4-inch screen.

The unit also features another introduction from Trimble: Transcend technology. This is a proprietary Trimble positioning capability providing users with high accuracy and flexibility. Transcend features the latest generation of GNSS chipsets and processors, according to Trimble.

“The FmX will help farmers gain efficiencies across their complete farming cycle,” said Erik Arvesen, Trimble’s general manager of Agricul­ture. “The integrated components allow farmers to purchase the FmX at a functionality level and price that fits their needs today with the option to easily upgrade to higher levels of performance as needed. We are packing a lot of capabilities and value into a single package.”

Optional 450 or 900 MHz radios are also integrated into the display for real-time kinematic (RTK) applications, along with support for up to four external video cameras. Both receivers include GPS and GLONASS (L1/L2/G1/G2) capability, offering a range of accuracy levels up to RTK GLONASS. The benefit to farmers is that a larger number of satellite signals can provide more robust positioning, even in difficult GPS or GLONASS environments.

Trimble also upgraded two of its receiver options with enhanced capabilities. The AgGPS 262 receiver is a low profile combined GPS receiver and antenna, offering a choice of accuracy levels depending on operations. The AgGPS 162 receiver serves as a low-cost DGPS smart antenna for less demanding applications.

Both receivers feature Transcend technology, as well as OnPath filter technology to reduce drift and improve accuracy, even in the absence of Satellite-Based Augmentation Service (SBAS) corrections.

The AgGPS 262 receiver replaces the AgGPS 252 receiver and does not require new cabling and configuration. It is a dual frequency L1/L2/L-band receiver. Options on the 262 include sub-inch Real-Time Kinematic (RTK), 4-inch OmniSTAR HP, 6-8 inch pass-to-pass OmniSTAR VBS or 6-8 inch pass-to-pass SBAS corrections, including the U.S. Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), European Geostationary Overlay Ser­vice (EGNOS), and Japan’s Multi-functional Satellite Aug­mentation System (MSAS).

The AgGPS 162 provides DGPS information to precision agriculture equipment that accepts NMEA data. Radar speed output allows users to control their variable-rate controllers without additional speed indicators. It is designed for yield monitoring or field mapping and is Autopilot system compatible. The 162 receiver is a combined antenna and GPS L1 receiver capable of SBAS corrections.

USC

USC is featuring its LX Series Seed Treater for 2009. This unit uses the company’s most popular line of seed treater with the latest accessories. These include the Seedwheel, flow meter, quick release atomizer chamber, and PLC controls as standard equipment. According to the company, using these accessories reduces start-up operations to the “simple touch of a button.”

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