Better Signals, Better Receivers

EZ-Guide 500 Trimble

Satellites are doing their part to improve precision agriculture. Sid Siefken, sales channel manager at Trimble, reports that key satellite systems’ placement and operations have been improved for higher levels of signal availability and strength, adding: “It translates into a more stable, predictive system.”

Accuracy and repeatability continue to improve, agrees Rhett Schildroth, ag product marketing manager with Topcon Positioning Systems. “Enhancements to the U.S. WAAS signal have improved submeter applications in most parts of the U.S. and even parts of Canada,” he says. “Dual constellation receivers that are able to track both the U.S. GPS satellite constellation and the Russian GLONASS constellation improve positional accuracy and increase up-time in the field.” He also points out these additional satellites allow users to maintain their signal when traveling close to tree lines and other obstructions.

“Block IIR-M satellites with more stable rubidium clocks are being launched at a high rate, additional signals such as the L2C are being added to the new payloads, and efforts to improve the broadcast ephemeris have yielded better overall performance,” says John Deere Engineer Curtis Hay.

John Deere is the only ag equipment manufacturer that operates its own global, space-based differential GPS network, says Hay. The StarFire Network is a collection of ground stations across the world that uploads differential corrections to six orbiting satellites at geostationary altitudes. 

“Over the last several months, Deere has upgraded this network by leasing additional satellites and improving redundancy at the network control centers,” Hay explains. “This translates to better network coverage around the globe and better reliability within the network infrastructure.”

One thing to watch out for, though, is that a couple of WAAS satellites will be retired sometime this summer, reports Marlin Melander, marketing manager, Raven Flow Controls. The move may have ramifications for receivers that are locked onto one of the retirees. Users will need to reconfigure their receiver to lock into a different signal or satellite, and Raven will be sending out bulletins to distributors on the details.

Latest Lines

Raven is flying high with its new Phoenix line of receivers. The best seller this spring has been the Phoenix 200 ($1,600), a submeter receiver capable of using WAAS or e-Dif, says Melander. In the event a WAAS signal is unreliable or there isn’t one available, e-Dif actually calculates its own differential correction for the satellites that are in view, he explains. The technology was developed by the Hemisphere GPS/Outback group and is currently available in that company’s Crescent receivers.

The Phoenix 300 ($3,995) is capable of receiving WAAS, CDGPS (Canadian DGPS), and OmniSTAR VBS, XP, and HP. It’s selling extremely well in Canada and can be used in the northern tier of states in the U.S. within range of picking up CDGPS, says Melander.

An eye to upgrading is key to Trimble’s technologies this year. Both the AgGPS 252 ($2,995) and AgGPS 332 ($2,995) can work with WAAS and subsequently be upgraded to work with OmniSTAR XP and HP signals — as well as go all the way to RTK, says Siefken. “The 252 is generally the standard receiver we would sell with our AutoPilot systems.”

Midwest Technologies’ receiver line is shifting a bit as older products are replaced, says Rich Gould, vice president of product strategy. One new niche item geared for the ag market is the RX 410 ($3,463), which, at presstime, was scheduled to ship in just a few weeks. Equipped with new electronics, the 410 replaces the RX 400. It handles multiple correction signals — WAAS, VBS, and Coast Guard Beacon.

The newly released RX 500 ($5,500) is a step up from the 410 and offers OmniSTAR XP and HP as well as WAAS correction capabilities. With the OmniSTAR HP signal, it gives reliable 5- to 10-centimeter accuracy and is very attractive for autosteer applications, says Gould. “It is extremely stable and its accuracy is enough for just about any field operation,” he explains.

Indeed, some technology developments are happening so fast, ag guidance manufacturers are racing to keep up with them. Hemisphere GPS released its BaseLine guidance system last year, but discovered components that “really made it quite a bit better in accuracy” just a few months later, says Jeff Farrar, North America sales manager for Outback Guidance. Enter the BaseLine HD (high definition) at $8,490, designed to replace mechanical disk markers. It features a data transmitter, internal battery, and integrated base station that can be operated from temporary tripod sites. Several BaseLine Rovers or vehicle-mounted GPS receivers can be serviced using single unit.

Built-In Options

To reduce the number of components an operator has to deal with, some companies are incorporating receivers into GPS system displays. Trimble’s new AgGPS EZ-Guide 500 lightbar ($2,995) has a big color display, with another stand-out feature: the dual frequency GPS receiver is built right into the unit, says Siefken. “This gives the new basic system the capability of L1 GPS reception with the WAAS system. Customers can upgrade it to operate XP and HP signals from OmniSTAR, and another upgrade makes the unit RTK compatible,” he says.

Midwest Technologies’ guidance system, the CenterLine 220, has the receiver built in. Gould says this approach has benefits and drawbacks: There’s one less component in the cab, but future performance upgrades are more of a challenge.

Advice From Experts

â–  Consider future upgrades. Look for a system that can grow in repeatability and accuracy as the demands of your business grow, says Schildroth. Several receiver systems on the market today allow operators to start at modest price and upgrade later. “They usually have submeter accuracy out of the box and then can be upgraded to decimeter and even centimeter level accuracy by purchasing correction signals or adding a base station,” he explains. One example is the Topcon MapHP.

While most guidance system packages come with a receiver, the customer does indeed have the option of using a brand of their choosing. For instance, the X20 ProSteer system from Topcon is an open architecture system that can work with any brand of positioning receiver.

â–   Check into accuracy. Trevor Mecham, North American business manager for ag with Leica, encourages receiver users to ask manufacturers about the difference between on-the-ground and receiver engine accuracy. This helps operators gain realistic expectations for performance in the field. “And users need to understand what level of accuracy they’re going to need for their operations. Don’t overbuy or underbuy,” says Melander.

Gould believes there’s still a place in the market for WAAS-only receivers. “At $1,500, they’re less costly and so reliable these days,” he points out.

â–   Price precautions. Mid-Tech’s Gould is realistic on pricing when it comes to receivers. “You get what you pay for,” he says.

â–   Get help close to home. Pointon believes local customer support is a critical issue. “I always tell people to contact different receiver dealers because, really, the local support you get from a dealer is more important than the actual piece of hardware,” he says.

â–   Firmware updates. Siefken advises users to go to the Web site of the receiver manufacturer to make sure they’re running the latest version of the receiver’s firmware. “Like getting any other piece of quality equipment field-ready, it’s part of the checklist for spring preparedness.”

â–   Watch for standards. Some good news is ahead for receiver buyers. The American Society for Agricultural and Biological Engineers is working to standardize testing procedures for receivers. “Each company uses its own terms and statistics when describing their receivers,” says Gould. “That can make them hard to compare.”

Strip-Till Time

There’s no question about the accuracy and repeatability required for strip-till work. The residue content on the fields can be high; hence, visibility for planting and input placement is low. Siefken describes a field where a grower might plant and fertilize into strip-till rows, then needs to come back to apply postemergence products, running applicators between rows. Operators can try a number of the newer dual frequency technologies, including RTK (available from a number of suppliers), OmniSTAR, and Starfire. Outback’s Farrar says BaseLine HD also offers the technology needed for strip-till operations in nutrient placement. Growers can decide which option offers the accuracy they want.

New acres planted to corn may be a boon to the guidance market, especially in strip-till situations. “A lot of cooperatives have created strip-till application programs as a service for sale,” Siefken notes.

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
Precision AgGrowing Demand For High Tech Agriculture Sparking Discussion
March 3, 2017
How can information technology be best harnessed to solve challenges in food and agriculture? That’s a question being asked more Read More
EquipmentWhat Does FBN’s Latest Attempt At Disintermediation Really Mean For Ag Retailers?
February 6, 2017
When Farmer’s Business Network (FBN), the Silicon Valley-based ag data startup that promises to leverage all kinds of on-farm data Read More
Farmobile Dashboard Heat Map
Precision AgFarmobile’s EFR Dashboard Brings Real-Time Metrics To The Coffee Table
January 1, 2017
Farmobile is one of many data start-ups that we’ve been closely observing with a sense of keen curiosity since they Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Trending Articles
AdjuvantsA New Weed-Control Era Begins: But First, One Last Obstacle
March 4, 2017
There is trepidation, there is reluctance, and there is excitement. Ag retailers feel it all about the new dicamba and Read More
LIFT Academy video screenshot
Crop InputsLIFT Agriculture Academy: A Q&A With West Central Distribution’s Dean Hendrickson
March 1, 2017
West Central Distribution recently launched its LIFT Agriculture Academy, a new, premiere training and professional development resource for West Central’s ag Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Latest News
UncategorizedPrecision Ag, Iowa Water, and GM Corn Updates
March 24, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj look at the state of precision agriculture, the dismissal of the Des Moines Water Read More
Pam Marrone
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Enters Biostimulants Market Wit…
March 23, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. is expanding beyond biopesticides and crop protection and into the biostimulant market by commercially launching Haven Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teach…
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
ManagementThink You Know Water? Take WinField United’s R…
March 22, 2017
Water is among our most precious resources, and arguably the hardest working, with just one percent available for human use, Read More
Corn Field
LegislationTFI Hopes Court Dismissal Is ‘Final Chapter’…
March 20, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) released the following statement from President, Chris Jahn on the March 17, 2017, federal court dismissal Read More
Wheat Growers
Industry NewsWheat Growers CEO Dale Locken To Retire
March 20, 2017
CEO Dale Locken has announced that he plans to retire from Wheat Growers. Locken has served almost 15 years as Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Eric SfiligojBayer-Monsanto: Life, LibertyLink, And The Pursuit Of R…
March 20, 2017
As the calendar officially turns to spring, life is in full renewal mode. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and Read More
Corn Field
Crop InputsUltra Yield Micronutrients Acquires Kronos Micronutrien…
March 16, 2017
Ultra Yield Micronutrients, Inc. ”Ultra”, an affiliate of Cameron Chemicals, Inc., is pleased to announce that it has acquired the Read More
ManagementSnowstorms, Asset Sales, and Soybeans Prices
March 16, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the weather, precision ag, crop protection company mergers, and commodity prices in this Read More
Soybean Field
Seed/BiotechBayer Invests $8.1 million In Soybean Advancement In Th…
March 16, 2017
Growers in Illinois and across the Midwest now have the added benefit of a state-of-the-art soybean research facility, increasing accessibility Read More
CHS
CropLife 100CHS Acquires Western Co-op Transport Association
March 16, 2017
CHS Inc., North America’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, has purchased Western Co-op Transport Read More
Young corn plants in soil
HerbicidesBest Management Practices To Control PPO-Resistant Weed…
March 14, 2017
Weeds resistant to the class of herbicides called protoporphyrinogen oxidase (PPO) inhibitors are spreading at a faster rate than weed Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Eric SfiligojFungicide Resistance On The Horizon
March 13, 2017
For many years now, the agricultural market has struggled to keep ahead of an ever-growing number of herbicide-resistant weeds. According Read More
Management2017 Commodity Classic Review
March 10, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss what happened at the recent Commodity Classic in San Antonio. Read More
Farmer using AgriSync
ManagementMajor AgriSync Update Aims To Extend Ag Experts’ Power …
March 10, 2017
AgriSync announced a major update to its leading collaboration and service management tool for professional ag advisors and their farmer Read More
Agrible Pocket Spray Smart App
EquipmentNew Agrible Pocket Spray Smart App Alleviates Spraying …
March 10, 2017
There’s a new app to help farmers decide when to spray their fields. Pocket Spray Smart is a free iOS Read More
BPIA logo
Crop InputsBiological Products Trade Association Changes Name, Exp…
March 9, 2017
The Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA), formerly the BioPesticide Industry Alliance, is the new name of the rapidly growing U.S.-based Read More
BBI MagnaSpread Salford BBI
Equipment14 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2017
March 9, 2017
Application equipment manufacturers stressed flexibility and accuracy with this year’s crop of fertilizer spreaders. From AGCO’s TerraGator TG9300B and Case IH’s 810 Read More