2012 Precision Ag Product Review
“This year, we see a movement away from the classic do it all, closed system (silo) approach of precision ag solutions towards lower barrier to entry, consumer driven, connected solutions,” says Mike Santostefano, director of marketing and business development for AgIntegrated. “This movement will propel precision agriculture and overall industry efficiency to a whole new level.”
According to Santostefano, there is a perfect storm taking place to make this happen. “First, each software and technology company is realizing that they alone are unable to deliver quality solutions to cover every need within the industry,” he says. “Instead, we see these companies focusing more on their areas of expertise and becoming more willing to collaborate and integrate with each other to meet the demands of the industry.
“Second, the industry is stepping up to drive standardization of data communication and technology integration through AgGateway,” he continues. “This standardization allows for more efficient communication of data, which results in more connectivity and integration of precision ag systems.
“Third, and most importantly, the adoption of mobile technologies have enabled the precision ag consumer to become the most important asset once again,” adds Santostefano. “These consumers, including precision ag specialists, salespeople, agronomists, consultants, operators and growers, are the people responsible for adopting and embracing precision agriculture. As seen in other industries, these connected consumers will ultimately drive the need for lower cost, easier to use, integrated systems that make their day more efficient.”
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With an understanding of these trends, AgIntegrated is introducing a new product called OnSite. “OnSite combines cloud, desktop and mobile technologies with the OnSite Relay, a wireless data transfer device, to provide a low barrier to entry, professional toolset with a focus on the needs of the end user,” says Santostefano.
In addition, OnSite’s tracking features allow users to manage and view their team as they move through their jobs. OnSite also has integrated chat features. Data files are always available through a users smartphone and are easily transferred to and from the equipment regardless of its color.
“But beyond the features that OnSite provides, it also interfaces with other solution providers and equipment manufacturers’ APIs, providing tight integration and access to a huge library of existing systems,” says Santostefano. “OnSite aims to bring all the trends in mobile and precision ag together into one cohesive package, enabling forward movement and growth while continuing to benefit from current equipment and agronomic software systems.”
According to Ag Leader’s Dave King, these are the trends that will be the driving forces behind precision ag growth during 2012 — and how Ag Leader hopes to tie into them.
“We continue to see that growers want to integrate more operations into one precision farming display,” says King. “They only want to learn how to operate one display and they want to be able to keep all their data together so that it is easily available. However, growers also want flexibility with their display as they only want to pay for the features they plan on using. The Versa display from Ag Leader helps growers overcome these issues.”
In operation, he adds, the Versa display is color blind so it can be used with any brand of farming equipment. “This makes it ideal for growers with multiple brands of equipment in their operation,” says King. “The Versa display has a broad range of features including guidance/steering, planter control, application control and yield monitoring as standard. Additional features such as AutoSwath, Boom Height control, Multiple Product application and ISOBUS functionality can be unlocked as needed. The ISOBUS functionality really expands the grower’s ability to easily integrate different pieces of farming equipment.”
The Versa is also interchangeable with the Integra display. “If a grower starts with a Versa display and wants to upgrade to the full featured Integra display it is as easy as disconnecting the Versa and plugging in the Integra,” says King. “All connections are the same and the file formats are the same between the displays. With the new .AGSETUP and .AGDATA file formats data can be transferred between displays with a USB drive. There is no need to load the files into an external software package.”
According to Leica’s Harlan Little, the company is highlighting a pair of systems for precision agriculture in 2012. The first is the Leica mojo3D. “The Leica mojo3D guidance display is a smarter precision guidance system, loaded with industry leading advances designed to help save time and money for years to come,” says Little. “The versatile guidance display has multiple upgrade options; customize it to fit your individual needs. Right out of the box, Leica mojo3D is a unique manual guidance system with robust features. Work any field the way you want. AB Parallel, A+ Heading, Fixed Contour and Pivots are the four standard guidance patterns. In addition, Leica’s Ultimate Curve option provides guidance along any area already covered and works seamlessly with any other guidance options. Plus, steer-to-the-line technology produces straighter, more even lines with any of our guidance patterns.”
The other system is the Leica mojoXact. “Benefit from the latest high accuracy upgrade option for the Leica mojo3D and enjoy the flexibility for a variety of applications,” says Little. “The Leica mojoXact provides RTK positioning with the Leica terrain compensation and offers additional steering solutions like SteerDirect CAN, SRK and Hydraulic for further improved accuracy.”
According to John Pointon, director of sales for OmniSTAR, there are several precision ag product trends that will be driving the marketplace during 2012. “I expect there to be continued growth in the adoption of high accuracy positioning for use in machine guidance, auto-steer and steering assist,” says Pointon. “The return on investment for these technologies is very rapid and growers gain immediate benefits in terms of reduction in operating costs and reduction in fatigue.”
In terms of how OmniSTAR is tieing into these trends, the company is planning several new product introductions and upgrades for the year. “We are continuing to introduce refinements in accuracy and performance,” says Pointon. “The OmniSTAR G2 solution, which adds the Russian GLONASS signals to the solution, should be available on the Trimble CFX750 and FMX products in 2012. In addition the new Trimble Centerpoint RTX solution is available throughout the U.S. Midwest.”
In operation, he adds, the OmniSTAR G2 adds GLONASS to its solution options. “This means that more satellites are available at the receiver which in turn reduces the likelihood of signal loss and interruption in operations,” says Pointon. “More satellites means greater reliability and better results when operating around trees and obstructions. As for the Trimble Centerpoint RTX solution, which can broadcast over the central U.S. from satellite, is the highest accuracy available for wide area satellite corrections. Pass-to-pass accuracy is around 1-inch and, in the areas where “RTX Rapid” is available, convergence to full accuracy is normally achieved in less than one minute. Both OmniSTAR G2 and Trimble Centerpoint RTX represent significant improvements in GNSS correction capabililties.”
According to Ryan Molitor, marketing supervisor, Applied Technology Division, Raven has its eye on many new trends and products in 2012. “A trend we continue to see is the importance of streamlining data management to help customers make important decisions in their operations throughout every phase of the season,” says Molitor. “Raven is taking advantage of this via our Slingshot high speed wireless system. Slingshot allows for file transfer between field and office, which eliminates the need for USB drives and trips back and forth from the office to the field, and gives customers a secure, online account they can access anywhere via the Internet to review job files, send prescription maps, etc.”
In addition, he adds, Raven is taking its Slingshot system and “really opening things up” through the Slingshot API, which helps software vendors integrate all the wireless technology Slingshot has to offer into their existing software platforms.
“They don’t have to go back to the drawing board and can help their existing customers integrate Slingshot into what they are using today,” says Molitor. “So now, we’re not only streamlining how data is transferred and managed, but opening the door for software vendors and ag retailers to work together to even customize software to suit their dynamic needs. This approach is unique in that we aren’t trying to come out with a “one size fits all” approach, as there are so many customers with varying needs in regards to their data management. Raven has several Slingshot API Community Partners that are currently integrating this solution into their offering, and we’re excited to help turn those “what-ifs” we’ve heard over the last couple of years into reality.”
According the SST Software’s Jeremy Bale, 2011 was memorable for several reasons. “Looking back over 2011, we believe trends in the data management space have matured over the past year,” says Bale. “A greater understanding of the need for compatibility between precision ag systems is taking form as the market shows less interest in standalone solutions. Systems capable of working together with greater efficiency and a higher level of consistency are increasingly being sought after.”
This year, says Bale, SST Software customers will find continued emphasis on building connections between our software and services and other solutions they employ. “Tools simplifying the acquisition, movement and analysis of data aid in its stability and accessibility and help to increase adoption of site-specific data management as a decision-making tool,” he says. “The industry has begun seeing the birth of crop production systems able to communicate more readily data collected on field activities. While there are still many milestones on the horizon we see a few key products taking shape in 2012 helping SST Software customers push the needle forward. The introduction of Web accounts allow service providers to create secure, customized Websites for their customers. Through Web accounts, growers have access to real-time weather radar and forecast information displayed directly over their fields. Data collected is shared directly to the grower’s Web account along with recommendations, reports and advanced information products aiding with in-season decision making and planning efforts. We believe added emphasis will be placed on the wireless movement of data between the office and field. A continued focus on broadening the ability to share data wirelessly from SST Summit directly to field equipment by connecting to emerging solutions will be evident this year. With the vast amount of data collected over recent years and new data types becoming accessible we will maintain our core philosophy of developing tools and services aiding service providers as they strengthen the business of the growers they support by managing data and producing valuable information products. Incorporating data layers such as in-season imagery and historical weather information will allow for an even greater depth of analysis and lead to exiting new information products down the road. Each of our products achieve greater success due to the efficiency and stability provided by the framework of agX. The agX standards employed provide a platform capable of scaling to fit the demands of the largest crop production companies in the world. Our customers are strengthened through the consistency agX provides and we are committed to advancing the products made possible through agX both nationally and internationally in 2012.”
According to TeeJet’s Tim Stuenkel, the company sees two trends driving the precision ag market in 2012. “One is the ability of growers to more effectively manage the data they collect from various field operations and the other is in the growth of field operations that require increasingly precise GPS signals,” says Stuenkel. “The ability to gather map and application data in the field has gotten much easier in recent years, but has increased the burden on the grower in terms of properly managing and utilizing this data. At the same time cultural practices such as strip-till, precision nutrient placement, controlled traffic patterns and high-precision auto-steer require increasingly accurate GPS receivers.”
To tie into these trends, TeeJet is promoting several systems this year. One is the FieldWare Link PC utility, which was launched to enhance the data management capabilities of the Matrix Pro guidance platform. “Matrix Pro, offered in two sizes — 570G (5.7-inch screen) and 840G (8.4-inch screen) — and features an intuitive touchscreen display, easy setup and industry exclusive features like NextRow guidance mode and RealView guidance over video,” he says. “Matrix Pro can be configured to the best fit for your operation including lightbar guidance, video monitoring, hydraulic auto-steer and automatic boom section control. We also recently introduced the RX510 and RX610 family of high precision GNSS receivers, which are a great complement to the Matrix Pro guidance system.
“FieldWare link PC utility provides a simple database structure, using a traditional precision farming hierarchy of client, farm, field, and job,” he continues. “It allows easy storage and retrieval of field boundaries, AB lines, and coverage maps.”
The other systems TeeJet is highlighting are the RX510 and RX610 dual frequency GNSS receivers. These utilize a rugged, one piece smart antenna design and are available with a quick release mounting system for easy movement between farm vehicles. “The RX510 is compatible with OmniSTAR XP and HP signals for applications requiring 4- or 6-inch pass-to-pass accuracy,” says Stuenkel. “The RX610 RTK receiver provides 1- to 2-inch pass-to-pass accuracy and year-to-year repeatability for high precision applications like strip tillage. The RX610 features an internal cellular modem for access to CORS/Network RTK signals, many of which are accessible for free or for a reasonable annual fee.”
According to Topcon’s Joe Robertson, there is a growing trend is additional functionality beyond steering; namely rate and section control as well as compatibility via ISO11783 to bring functionality with various implements. To this end, Topcon’s X30 console is an example of where the industry is headed. “The X30 offers large 12.1-inch display, multi-touch, drag-and-drop functionality, mini views and configurable dashboard capability that let the operator view information from multiple control loops, sensors, etc.,” says Robertson.
“The X30 is also equipped with ISO functionality, so it is plug-and-play with ISO compatible implements.”
In November, Topcon added the ability to interface with NORAC boom leveling systems via ISO — an example of expanding the capability of your primary precision farming display. “This is all in preparation for spring planting and spraying,” he says. “Last, is adding the existing Topcon ASC-10 to bring the functionality of rate control and section control in a single component.”
Then there is the X30/System 350. “With a unique drag-and-drop interface, the Topcon X30 console gives all-in-one control of guidance, high-accuracy autosteering (to 2 cm), sprayer control, spreader control, planter control, mapping and data management,” says Robertson. “Topcon System 350 is a complete precision ag control system featuring the X30 console. The X30 and AGI-3 receiver are ISO compatible and ready to plug into steer-ready vehicles. The AGI-3 offers snap-in upgrades for RTK with 900 mHz, Digital UHF, or GSM. OmniSTAR option is also available and it is compatible with Topcon base stations, GSM and CORS networks. For non-steer-ready vehicles, the optional AES-25 Electric Steering system offers fast, accurate steering response with up to 2 cm accuracy and full terrain compensation. The Topcon ASC-10 Electronic Control Unit offers 10-section sprayer, planter or spreader autosection control with liquid rate control.”
Finally, there’s the newest system from Topcon, SGISfarm software. This is an ag information management system designed specifically for ease of use by professional farm operators on their office PC.
“SGISfarm is an easy-to-use precision farming software that includes all of the mapping and drawing tools customers expect for displaying and working with their data,” says Robertson. “The new system utilizes field data collected from soil testing, GIS mapping and yield monitors to help farmers make better crop input decisions.
“It features a simple, reliable process for creating variable-rate crop input by focusing on basic but proven recommendation methods,” he continues. “These methods are ‘pre-packaged’ as templates eliminating the need for users to learn the complex process of writing equations.”
Joe Tevis, Topcon precision ag director of agronomic products and services, says: “SGISfarm was developed to allow Topcon to offer full farm solutions and complete the value proposition of its many hardware products, including all of its consoles and controllers. This specialized data management software specifically targets precision farming for the owner-operator.”
SGISfarm also offers “tight integration” with a number of machines from AGCO, a Topcon strategic partner. “With the high cost of seed, it is an excellent tool for use with variable-rate seeding, turning data of choice into VRC seeding maps for AGCO White planters as well as those planters equipped with DICKEY-john IntelliAg controls,” says Tevis.
He says: “SGISfarm is capable of creating variable-rate maps for virtually all of the common controllers used in application and seeding control. It is also compatible with the harvest monitors of other brands of combines and, in addition to supporting those monitors, it can easily merge data when multiple combines are used in the same field.”
True precision agriculture lets you harvest and manage data from your fields as efficiently as you harvest and manage your crops. This is possible with a system of software and communication services from Trimble that combines precision guidance and machine control with data management software and wireless communications technology.
Trimble’s Connected Farm is an integrated operations management solution that combines industry-leading hardware and software to increase efficiency and effectiveness for today’s farming business. It enables improved management of farming operations between the field and office through wireless communication from handheld-to-office, vehicle-to-office, and now vehicle-to-vehicle.
The newly released Vehicle Sync enables this vehicle-to-vehicle communication between operators in the same field, allowing them to share coverage maps, A/B guidance lines, and other pertinent field data — saving time, and simplifying data communications.
Additionally, you can transfer such information as yield data, coverage maps, A/B guidance lines and field records from in-cab displays to the farm office simply by pushing “send” on a touchscreen. Data is sent and received using a cellular data modem and the wireless data plan of your choice. There is no need to run USB flash drives or data cards from one place to another.
Using integrated software, you can take your precision farming data and merge it with your accounting program to generate true profit maps and enterprise statements. Profit maps are automatically generated to show which precision farming practices are more profitable so that you can make better management decisions.
Managers can also see a live map of vehicle locations in the office to help manage fleets. Using geo-fences within the office software, alerts can be sent to a cell phone when employees enter restricted farming zones or if equipment is stolen. Trimble plans to expand its telematics solution in the Spring of 2012 by offering My Connected Farm, an online solution for accessing more equipment information. This solution will provide more up-to-date information regarding fleet management, a virtual dashboard of cab monitors, fuel usage, engine reporting, and performance analysis.
Connected Farm can be used with a variety of hardware and software components. For example, the Trimble in-cab FmX integrated display can serve as the hub of Connected Farm operations by performing such precision ag functions as monitoring yields, controlling chemical application rates, or field leveling. It’s easy to set an A/B line and then immediately share it with other vehicles in the field for improved guidance management.
The Trimble Juno SC and Nomad handheld computers and the Trimble Yuma tablet computer can be used to send and receive soil sampling locations and scouting data with digital photographs between the field and farm office using the same wireless functionality. This is especially handy when multiple mobile computers are collecting information. Connected Farm allows the data from each mobile computer to wirelessly synchronize to one location for quicker analysis.
Farm Works Mapping software can be used to keep field records such as spray coverage and crop plans; to track profitability on a field-by-field basis, or print detailed reports for fertilizer, hybrids, weather and more.
Just like every farm is different, there’s no “one” Connected Farm solution. Trimble can develop a plan to meet your farm’s particular requirements, and if possible, may utilize equipment you already own. For more information, visit www.trimble.com/agriculture.