Controllers Pack More Power

While rate controllers have been around for almost 30 years, some major gains in the technology have come in the past few years. Today, many controllers can be connected into systems that run GPS, lightbar guidance, field mapping, automatic steering, printable reports, and the like. The controllers can now help fertilize and seed at varying rates, use multiple hoppers to put down granulars, and apply multiple products via direct injection.

The question is which controller will give the most value, whether buyers are starting from scratch or adding to components already on equipment. “Operators want more and more out of the electronics they buy,” says Michael Helling, manager-flow control at Trimble.

Some Keep It Simple

“There are two levels of operators today,” says Craig Fens­termaker, product manager at New Leader. “Those looking for simple operation, and those looking for maximum documentation.” He says on the no-frills end, New Leader’s SP.6 controller provides direct, simple set-up and two functions operators really want: simple input of rate and density and conveyor speed control/closed loop spinner speed control.

Rob Hoehn, sales manager at Micro-Trak Systems, says manufacturers are taking standard control systems and making variations that provide a more “custom fit” for buyers. The company has introduced its new MT-3405D dual channel automatic rate controller, which can handle two products. Able to do variable rates (VR), it controls and records channels 1 and 2 independently — and can apply any combination of liquid, granular, or anhydrous ammonia (NH3).

Rawson’s Accu-Rate variable-rate controller mounts to any planter, drill, air seeder, granular and air spreader, and liquid applicator with constant volume pumps.

More Features

The Falcon II covers both ends of the technology spectrum. It can act as a stand-alone, “basic,” single-rate controller or a single-rate controller using a background image to “view” application, explains Wade Stewart, AGCO Global Technologies. But it can also control multiple products (up to 10) and variable rates (up to 200). The unit combines accuracy and automatic recording of as-applied data, with incredibly simple operation, he says.

Controllers are helping variable-rate application gain momentum. In fact, variable-rate control is the new catch phrase in 2006-07, believes Dan Iseminger, business development manager for KEE Technologies North America, a Div. of Topcon Positioning Systems. Grower-customers want to lower input costs and increase yields, “and to appease the environmentalists that are concerned about run-off, leaching, and increased nitrate levels in lakes and streams,” he says.

Also on the high end, the New Lead­er 7 offers a buffet of capabilities, including liquid and dry operation, auto swath control, multiple product application, auto steering capability, GPS guidance, job summary report, touch screen control, colored screen, and two features unique to the NL7 — feedgate and fan frame automation, a patented feature. On spinner spreaders, Fenstermaker says, this technology adjusts the fanframe and feedgate to the operator’s predetermined settings for each product. “No more moving from the cab to the spinner over and over during application runs,” he points out.

Precise Booms

A number of companies released their new or improved versions of automatic boom section control in 2006, some with the ability to control several sections. “Customers tell us it really saves time and money,” says Trimble’s Helling. His company’s EZ-Boom — which also does variable rates — offers the technology at a price that’s accessible to many users. “Up until now these capabilities have only been available in higher end products. We’ve put it at a competitive price point,” he says.

In fact, Helling’s team at Trimble believes automatic boom section control is transitioning from a luxury item to a requirement.

“We’re seeing an increased awareness and demand for Automatic Sec­tion Control (ASC),” agrees Iseminger. “This is being driven by National Re­source Conservation Service and EPA offices — as well as farmers themselves looking to reduce chemical costs and increase application performance.”

Iseminger reports that with KEE’s ASC ability on a standard five-boom section sprayer, operators have seen between 8% and 10% savings on their chemical bills and application rates due to better “pin-point” accuracy of application. Those that have installed KEE’s highest-end 30-section ASC system have experienced savings as high as 20% on chemicals and 30% on time in the field.

Dave King, marketing and international business manager at Ag Leader, says the Insight Direct Command system gives auto boom section control with its Auto­Swath feature. The system does direct control for liquids and granulars and can handle variable rates for multiple products.

The Swath Control Pro from John Deere Ag Man­agement Solutions uses GPS to turn boom sections on and off automatically, according to a coverage map. The map shows where the operator and machine have previously applied product or created external or internal boundaries that shouldn’t be sprayed.
Raven’s Envizio Plus now has a feature called AccuBoom for automatic boom section control, reports Matt Willard, business development manager, Flow Control Division. Envizio Plus also gives users worry-free operation of hydraulically leveled booms, he says. It can now do data logging so drivers can get actual rate information from a Raven console and data-log up to five products.

Mid-Tech’s high end Legacy 6000 is a Controller Area Network (CAN) bus system, which allows a vast amount of information to be shared across the system, says Midwest Technologies’ Rich Gould, marketing manager. The unit uses icon-guided, push-button controls to apply anhydrous and liquid and granular fertilizer, as well as to activate automatic boom section control and automatic steering. “These features are appealing because they reduce operator workload and improve application accuracy,” he adds.

Also taking advantage of CAN-based technology is the Intelliag from DICKEY-john Corp. The system can interface with seed sensors, shaft monitors, and hydraulic valves to monitor and control seeding rates and fertilizer application on planters, grain drills, or air carts. “Operators can then add monitors as needed for planting, spraying, spreading, or autosteering,” points out Pat Fuchs, product manager.

“The main trend we see in controllers is agronomic rather than electronic, especially for grower-applied materials such as seed,” says Eric Lund, president of Veris Technologies. They’re using the variable-rate capabilities of their controllers now more than in previous years. The reasons? He points to high nitrogen prices and escalating seed costs. “And reports of increased profits from VR soybean populations as well as corn and cotton are becoming more frequent,” he says.

In addition, guidance/autosteer products have allowed growers to become more familiar and comfortable with GPS — and operators are looking to extend the capabilities of those investments with variable rates. Many of the new planters have VR capabilities as standard equipment, so many recognize that VR is within their reach. Veris’ new Precision Rate Controller is a hydraulic planter and applicator drive with PosiRate technology, an advance which gives the widest range of pulse-free rates — from 20-300 rpm — eliminating the need to change drive sprockets.

What’s Ahead?

“The next move in the controller industry looks to be virtual terminal systems, along with wireless communication,” says Fenstermaker.

KEE’s Iseminger adds: “Wireless communication between the cab controller and a manager is an attractive feature for today’s large operations. To be able to monitor all the equipment you have running on a daily basis from one central location improves operational efficiencies enormously.”

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

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
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
Trending Articles
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
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Latest News
Soybean Plant closeup
HerbicidesRegional Listening Sessions Give Farmers A Voice In The…
February 27, 2017
Both scientists and regulators have had a lot to say about the growing problem of herbicide resistance and how weed Read More
Greystone Construction built the tension membrane fertilizer storage building (left) and steel seed treater building (right)
CropLife 100Pinnacle Announces Successful Exchange Offer Results An…
February 27, 2017
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC has announced today the early tender results of its previously announced offer to exchange (the “Exchange Read More
IEI Barge Fertilizer Potash Port Terminal
EquipmentLegacy Building Solutions Receives Design-Build Merit A…
February 27, 2017
When IEI Barge Services needed a building capable of storing and loading fertilizer, they turned to Legacy Building Solutions to Read More
ManagementSouth Africa Update and the New New Leader G5
February 24, 2017
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Dan Jacobs discuss the recent visit to South Africa by sister magazine AgriBusiness Global and the Read More
Fall Creek Watershed
StewardshipUpdate: Nutrient Stewardship In Indiana Requires Cool, …
February 24, 2017
Update: The application deadline for NCRS funding has been extended to March 17, 2017. Green leaves sparkle in the sunlight. Trees Read More
Greenleaf Technologies TADF03-D Dual Fan Nozzle
NozzlesSix Greenleaf Nozzles Approved For XtendiMax With Vapor…
February 22, 2017
Greenleaf Technologies has announced that six of its TurboDrop D Series nozzles have been approved for use with Monsanto’s XtendiMax Read More
Winter Wheat
Industry NewsTiger-Sul Hires Manitoba And Eastern Canada Account Man…
February 22, 2017
Tiger-Sul, a global leader in sulphur fertilizers and crop performance products, has announced that sales veteran Trevor Loewen has joined Read More
NFMS 17 Hagie Sprayer
Eric SfiligojThe Read From Louisville: Uncertain
February 22, 2017
By the time this column appears across the country, the annual Commodity Classic will be in full swing. This means Read More
SprayersApache 1000 Series Sprayer Earns 2017 EquipmentWatch Hi…
February 21, 2017
ET Works has been named a winner in the 2017 EquipmentWatch Highest Retained Value Awards program, the industry’s only award Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
StewardshipMeister Media Among 2017 Award Winners Presented By The…
February 21, 2017
The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance (TPSA) held its annual conference in San Diego, CA, earlier this month where three awards were Read More
John Reifsteck
CropLife 100GROWMARK’s Reifsteck Earns NCFC Director Of The Y…
February 21, 2017
GROWMARK Chairman of the Board and President John Reifsteck has earned the prestigious Director of the Year Award from the Read More
Roy Blunt
LegislationARA Recognizes Blunt, Heitkamp For Legislative Efforts …
February 17, 2017
Agricultural industry continues to face federal regulatory challenges. Thankfully, agriculture’s allies in the U.S. Senate stepped forward. The Agricultural Retailers Read More
LegislationThe Fertilizer Institute Commends Senate On Confirmatio…
February 17, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn issued the following statement on the Senate confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Read More
Trump, Senate, Cabinet
LegislationBREAKING: Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt Confirmed by S…
February 17, 2017
Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various Read More
ManagementFebruary Road Trip Edition
February 17, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent visits to Indiana and Kentucky. Read More
Heritage Cooperative Finished Building Aerial
ManagementHeritage Cooperative, Agland Co-op Approve Merger
February 17, 2017
Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative stockholders have both approved the merger agreement between Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative. Now begins Read More
LegislationARA Fly-In: Ag Retail Descends on Capitol Hill, Lawmake…
February 15, 2017
More than 100 agricultural retailers, distributors and suppliers headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning for the Agribusiness Congressional Fly-in, according to a Read More
Untreated soybean seed Heartland Coop
Seed/BiotechMarrone Bio Innovations, Groundwork BioAg Bio-stacked M…
February 13, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. and Groundwork BioAg, Ltd have announced successful seed treatment field trials of the world’s first all-biological Read More