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

Paul SchrimpfWorking With Walmart
June 2, 2014
It's critical for agriculture to have seats at the table as the mega-retailer works out its definition of sustainability. Read More

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More
Eric SfiligojIt’s Product Of The Year Voting Season
September 22, 2014
Readers of CropLife IRON will choose 2014’s best new product over the next month. Read More