Untangling GPS

Way back in 2005, the veritable “dark ages” of technology when the iPhone was still two years away from its maiden release and no one could even imagine that the verb “tweeting” would have deep societal meaning, we did a special report on the state of global positioning.

We could see automatic steering becoming a staple for retailers and growers in short order. The price point for basic steering technology had begun to drop, technology was getting more portable, and manufacturers were moving aggressively to put technology into the market. Then there was the beginning of the movement toward more accessible real-time kinematic global positioning (RTK), which delivers REPEATABLE sub-inch accuracy, and the simultaneous coining of the term, “Accuracy is Addictive.” What does it all mean? The time was ripe to dig into the issue.

One of my favorite quotes from the 2005 report came from Mike Gomes, a really smart guy who works for Topcon Positioning Systems. At the time, Top­con was just breaking into agriculture, and I asked him for his view on the future of global positioning.

“The idea is that global positioning becomes like a utility,” he said. “For instance, when you turn on a light electricity makes it work, or when you turn on the water, it is clean and usable. Imagine there being no issues with compatibility or to understand your position on Earth — it’s just there, on and ready to use. This is where the technology is headed, and that makes the future look very exciting for the GPS business.”

Flashforward six years, and while some things have been sorted out, others have grown more complex. Ambitious individuals who saw an opportunity to provide RTK signal service to their regions set out to build their own systems, often in partnership with growers and other businesses in the area. Manufacturers set out to build RTK networks in cooperation with their dealer-networks. Some growers felt big enough to do it on their own.

The addition of cellular technology has complicated things even further, with everything from open access state and regional CORS networks to new visions such as Raven‘s Slingshot, which employ regionally based cellular systems to deliver RTK GPS as well as the ability to transmit data. In some ways, it has become even more of a Wild, Wild West than it has ever been.

I should point out that one stable offering over the years has been Omni­STAR‘s subscription satellite service, which has been delivering 2- to 3-inch pass-to-pass accuracy for years, but has lacked the repeatability of the RTK system. With Trimble‘s acquisition of OmniSTAR, it will be interesting to see if Trimble’s scientists can squeeze more accuracy out of the satellite array.

All this said, I think it gets better for RTK GPS in agriculture from here. Manufacturers understand that for technology to grow beyond aggressive early adopters, the “stuff” underneath — GPS — needs to work. If we always have to worry about the integrity and/or compatibility of the signal, we’ll never get beyond where we are.

There are proprietary issues the industry must overcome, but the benefits of consistent GPS to agriculture are significant enough that we have to find a way to making it consistent, compatible, and accurate.

Leave a Reply

Paul Schrimpf Stories

OpinionOpinion: Taking On The Farmers Business Network
April 8, 2017
Well, another round of venture capital funding has come to Farmers Business Network (FBN), followed up with the obligatory feature Read More
PA Innovation
OpinionWinter Of Learning In Precision Agriculture
March 1, 2017
Winter time is meeting time, and it usually means that I get the chance to not only attend some terrific Read More
Southern States grower in cab
OpinionPrecision Agriculture: A Place For Everyone At The Table
February 3, 2017
Over the last 30 days, I’ve been immersed in all things precision agriculture. If you received your personal copy of Read More
Co-Alliance employee
OpinionHelp (Still) Wanted In Ag Retail
December 21, 2016
What a year for the industry and for me! My home city of Cleveland, OH, ended its sports championship curse. Read More
Trending Articles
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Agriculture
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Case sprayer nozzle closeup
EquipmentSpray Application: A Nozzle Renaissance
May 2, 2017
If you had asked four-decade ag veteran Mark Bartel, President of Wilger Inc., just a few years ago what lay Read More
ManagementWashington Update, Dow-DuPont Earnings, and the Passing of an AGCO Legend
April 27, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the latest Beltway news, crop protection company 1st quarter numbers, and the Read More
Crop InputsFlying Under the Radar No More, FMC Goes Big
April 13, 2017
Describing FMC as “under the radar,” admittedly, is probably a stretch. But in a snap of the fingers, FMC upped Read More
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionStill Hunting Yields
April 1, 2017
There’s no denying it — the agricultural marketplace today is undergoing a fundamental shift in fortunes. Not too many years Read More
Latest News
ManagementTrip Report, PSM R.I.P, and Ag’s Reaction to Federal Bu…
May 25, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about their recent travels, the end for Process Safety Management (PSM), and how Read More
Corn soil
LegislationARA Member Testifies Before Senate Ag Committee
May 25, 2017
Agricultural retailers stand on the front-lines of the American economy. As trusted advisors to America’s farmers, ag retailers are uniquely Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsFortenza Insecticide Seed Treatment Receives EPA Regist…
May 25, 2017
Fortenza seed treatment insecticide from Syngenta has received registration approval from the U.S. EPA for use on corn and cotton Read More
ManagementFarm Market iD’s Agriculture Database Now Covers More T…
May 25, 2017
Farm Market iD, farmmarketid.com, has announced the release of its 2017 Annual Update of its farm and land database. The Read More
Food IT Fork-to-Farm
Precision AgThe Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag…
May 24, 2017
For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Seed/BiotechKansas State University Researchers Find New Pathogens …
May 24, 2017
A single seed seems so simple. Put it in the ground, give it some care, and you’ve soon grown food. Read More
Soybean Field
HerbicidesNew Dicamba Herbicide Premix Coming Soon from Syngenta
May 24, 2017
Syngenta has announced the name of its new herbicide featuring the active ingredients of S-metolachlor and dicamba. Upon registration by Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto ‘Picks Its Battles’ by Nixing Deere Deal
May 23, 2017
Having been in the trade journalism game since the mid-1980s, I remember several watershed moments during my career. One of Read More
FungicidesSyngenta Launches New Seed Treatment Fungicide
May 22, 2017
Syngenta has announced the launch of PLENARIS seed treatment fungicide for the control of downy mildew in sunflower. PLENARIS contains Read More
Corn close up
Crop InputsMonsanto’s First HPPD Herbicide Garners EPA Appro…
May 19, 2017
Monsanto announced today that EPA has federally approved Harness MAX Herbicide, the first herbicide in the Monsanto portfolio to provide Read More
ManagementPrecision Planting Deal, China Developments, and Enviro…
May 18, 2017
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Dan Jacobs discuss the latest news on John Deere’s now dead deal for Precision Planting, China’s Read More
Soybean aphid leaf
InsecticidesMulti-state Research Reveals IPM Best Option for Treatm…
May 17, 2017
About 89.5 million acres of soybeans will be planted across the U.S. in 2017 — a record high, according to Read More
GROWMARK-2017-Interns
CropLife 100GROWMARK Names 2017 Summer Interns
May 16, 2017
Forty-two college students are exploring agricultural career opportunities this summer as GROWMARK interns. They are working at FS member cooperatives Read More
Migrant farm workers
LegislationTrump: Immigration Crackdown Won’t Impact U.S. Ag…
May 16, 2017
President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry Read More
Flooded corn in Indiana
FertilizerBoth Wet and Dry Conditions Threaten Nitrogen Loss
May 15, 2017
The weather is notoriously unpredictable, leading to challenges for planting, harvesting and applying the nitrogen (N) your corn crop needs. Read More
farmer Kip Tom
Precision AgAg Tech: On the Cusp of Something Big?
May 15, 2017
The investment and ag-tech sectors’ continuing courtship of agriculture, smoldering for three or four years now, was well in evidence at Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
Eric SfiligojRemembering Robert Ratliff
May 15, 2017
With all the fast-paced happenings in agriculture this spring, with multiple mergers in the works and planting season in full Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
ManagementOpinion: Shaking Your Perspective in Ag Retail
May 12, 2017
Some of you I’m sure have encountered our recently retired salesman extraordinaire, Dan Bellanger. He worked in the industry for Read More