Precision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is the phone call or text most often received by me, and any other technology specialist, early in the morning, sometime around the first of March. Our response may vary a little, but usually consists of asking what is wrong, where is the machine, and an estimated time to come out to fix said problem. From that first day through the last one in late fall, our lives will follow the growers through their ups and downs.
During the off season, growers and the individuals that support them are trying to catch up with family time and peck away at preparing for the next year. In my experience, one of the often overlooked details for the next year’s crop is the precision ag side of an operation. While a tractor will go into the shop for maintenance along with the implements, the simple little GPS screen or screens tend to be left powered off and not tested. If we are truly preparing for the new season, the precision hardware and software must be properly maintained.
An often overlooked aspect to precision ag technology is the data. Every GPS screen stores data one way or another. Most new screens store all field data and logging events internally, while older screens store this data to an external storage device. Cleaning out the previous year or years data ensures that your system will not run out of storage. One thing to keep in mind is simply saving the data to an external device does not delete the data from the screen. On most brands you must actually delete the data from the screen as well. What to do with that data is up to you and your precision ag objectives. At the very least, I recommend saving the data as it could be important down the road.
Next on the list is storing your GPS screen in a controlled environment. While most screens can handle extreme temperature changes, Ag Leader’s InCommand series, for example, can handle storage temperatures ranging from -22 to +176 Fahrenheit (-30 to +80 Celsius), this does not mean it likes sitting in a tractor frozen solid through the winter. Another benefit is keeping the screen and GPS antenna secure. Also, keeping the system stored in a shop or house will stave off any chance of having a system stolen.
Precision ag hardware on implements also need to be maintained. Testing valves, flow meters, and other control or monitoring parts while in the shop can save critical time when spring rolls around. There is nothing worse than having a bad flow meter on the first calm day of spring. When the implement is stored outside, even under a pole barn, remember to cap off all the electrical connectors. This will help prevent corrosion from building on the pins. Proper capping off does not mean using a plastic bag and electrical tape. Your intentions are good, but condensation will form in the bag and probably make the situation worse. Also, do not forget about the connectors on the tractor end.
As we look forward to the start of spring work, have a plan in place to once again test your equipment. Call your Precision Hardware Specialist and let them know you are going to be heading to the field and want to know if there are any updates. Most hardware systems have one or two updates a year. Remount the screen into the tractor and hook your system up to the first implement. Test all functionality of the system. If it is all working, calibrate any products you are controlling and head to the field. Your first day of spring work should run smoothly, at least from the precision side of things!