CropLife Technology 2011 Year In Review: Precision Progress

The technology year 2011 in agriculture provided a number of interesting story lines, from the politics of GPS to the proliferation of mobile technology to the genuine proof of concept of unmanned autonomous equipment. We also saw a growing trend towards collaboration and cooperation amongst fierce competitors, providing hope that greater equipment and software compatibility will lead to more rapid and wider adoption of efficiency and agronomy-improving technology.

It was an excellent year for innovation and progress in ag technology, punctuated by what we consider the most significant stories from the 2011 season.

GPS Vs. Lightsquared

In its relatively brief history, precision agriculture has never really had a broad political cause to fight for in the Beltway. That is, until this year when technology company Lightsquared announced that the FCC had given it permission to begin a pilot deployment of its broadband Internet solution. To the government, it looked like a silver bullet solution to establishing broadband access coast to coast.

But there was a hitch. The Lightsquared signal as planned would significantly compromise the existing GPS signal, rendering it virtually useless. The GPS industry, including a laundry list of companies in the agriculture market, conducted three months of testing to get to the bottom of the issue. It was determined by their technical people that under no circumstances could the Lightsquared signal broadcast in its assigned spectrum without affecting GPS. Even a late move by Lightsquared to reduce the spectrum it would broadcast on continued to compromise the GPS signal, most especially the high accuracy GPS that agriculture relies on.

At this stage, it is uncertain how the FCC will rule, but agriculture has had its say. The Agricultural Retailers Association was able to weigh in on behalf of all ag dealerships through the testimony of Rick Greene, precision manager at MFA Inc., and his testimony at a hearing conducted by the House Small Business Committee.

Continuing Collaboration

As technology continues to mature in agriculture, there appears to be a growing trend toward competing companies working more closely together to bring better solutions to retailers and growers. This trend was punctuated at the 2011 InfoAg Conference in July, which drew more than 700 attendees and had a decidedly more collaborative tone than past meetings.

Where this conference had often featured major new technology releases from the big companies, much of the discussion at the 2011 event was about offering ways that technology could “talk” to each other, share data, and make the end user more productive (such as Slingshot API, shown on the previous page). Overall, manufacturers seemed to be embracing their strengths and reaching out to other companies to broaden and improve the solutions they bring to agriculture.

Another example was the formation of a Precision Agriculture committee within AgGateway, the industry organization that is facilitating the creation of a broad range of data standards in agriculture. Broad participation in this committee will hopefully result in the establishment of standards that make it much easier to exchange data and develop prescription recommendations — and increase the adoption of agriculture technology by more retailers and growers.

Kinze’s Autonomy Project

One of the biggest surprises was the unveiling of an unmanned, autonomous tractor technology by Kinze Manufacturing. Kinze collaborated with East Coast company Jaybridge Robotics on a proof-of-concept project to demonstrate how autonomous tractor technology could be made to work.

“This is not a remote control process, this is total autonomy,” said Luc van Herle, global sales manager for Kinze, when we caught up with him at the Farm Progress Show in September. “Your input field boundaries, account for water and obstacles, load it into the tractor and planter and let it go.” In demonstrations, van Herle noted that it takes a few minutes to actually get moving. “It’s thinking. It’s creating a map and a plan for the best way to plant the particular field,” he explains. It does it by itself, as if an operator is there, lifting up the planter, making the turns, and heading back down to plant the next row.

The difficult task of scaling the technology so that it’s affordable for a grower is the next step and that could take a number of years, but it was an impressive demonstration that created big waves in the ag technology world.

2011 also witnessed a number of significant strategic moves among ag technology companies. Some of the most significant include the following:

Trimble Enhances GNSS Offerings

In March, Trimble acquired OmniSTAR’s land based Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signal corrections business from Fugro N.V. At the time, Patricia Boothe, general manager of Trimble’s Positioning Services division, explained that “with the addition of the OmniSTAR services and our strong relationship with Fugro, we will offer a full range of high-precision positioning capabilities which now includes satellite-delivered corrections.”

Trimble made good on the promise with the July release of CenterPoint RTX, a new GNSS offering that offers “a fully-converged position in less than one minute at startup within the five central U.S. Corn Belt states from Nebraska to Illinois.” According to Trimble. “For the area outside of the five U.S. states, the Cen­terPoint RTX correction service provides the same 4-centimeter (1.5-inch) repeatable accuracy, but end-users will experience additional convergence time to reach full accuracy.”

Deere Embraces Integration

John Deere announced a plan in March to bring together its current and future wireless technology solutions under a new brand called FarmSight, with a goal of providing an “integrated and comprehensive vision” for meeting the needs of the increasingly complex growing operation. The FarmSight vision serves to focus current and future Deere offerings under a single umbrella, including aspects of its JDLink telematics solution, Ag Logic asset and fleet management solution and Apex desktop software.

Topcon Makes Moves

The release of Topcon’s X-30 control console back in January created a lot of buzz in agriculture for its iPad-like touch screen operation and impressive capabilities, further deepening its commitment to bringing improved technology to agriculture. Then in the summer it announced that it had acquired SGIS software from its key equipment partner AGCO, providing an opportunity for Topcon to gain a foothold in the GIS software business.

So will GPS integrity be spared? What new products will come to market? What surprises lie in store for retailers in 2012? Stay tuned … with an upbeat farm economy and a heightened sense of collaboration among technology companies, anything is possible.

Leave a Reply

Precision Ag Stories

Corn Field
FertilizerBridging Crop Nutrition Science And Technology
September 7, 2016
The future seemed to draw nearer for the 1,600-plus attendees of the co-located InfoAg and International Precision Agriculture conferences in St. Read More
Deere R4023 cab
Precision AgPrecision Ag Aids Fertilizer Programs
September 6, 2016
Whatever the farm economy may look like, retailers need to continue to develop a sound fertility program to reach the Read More
EquipmentCase IH Debuts Nutri-Tiller 955 Strip-Till Applicator
August 24, 2016
With strip-till continuing to expand across new acres, Case IH designed the new Nutri-Tiller 955 strip-till applicator to help producers Read More
EquipmentCase Launches Aim Command FLEX, 25th Anniversary Patriot Sprayer
August 24, 2016
Case IH announces new AIM Command FLEX advanced spray technology for greater application accuracy, as well as special 25th Anniversary Read More
Trending Articles
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Crop InputsBayer-Monsanto Mega-Merger: 6 Things You Need To Know
September 14, 2016
Mega mergers have become almost routine in the agricultural industry. Right on the heels of Monday’s news that fertilizer giants Potash Read More
Potash Corp Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium, Potash Corp To Merge To Create $36 Billion Company
September 12, 2016
Canada’s Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc. have agreed to combine in a deal that would create a Read More
Osage Co-op Elevator Osage, IA Finished Building
OpinionAre We Crazy?
September 8, 2016
At some point in the first few months of my employment here at CropLife® magazine, I started getting curious about Read More
ManagementMAGIE 2016 Highlights and Deere Anti-Trust
September 1, 2016
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses the recent Midwest AG Industries Exposition and the Department of Justice’s objection to John Deere Read More
ASMARK 2016 Retailers Live! Tour - CPS
CropLife 100CPS Acquires Texas Retail Operation
August 23, 2016
Crop Production Services (CPS) has acquired the assets of Larry’s Chemical and Spray, Inc., for an undisclosed amount in an Read More
Latest News
Growmark FS Outlet
Industry NewsGROWMARK To Purchase Suncor’s Share Of UPI
September 26, 2016
GROWMARK and Suncor have reached an agreement in which GROWMARK will purchase Suncor’s 50% interest in UPI, Inc. in Ontario, Read More
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Syngenta Seedcare Institute
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Opens New North America Seedcare Institute In …
September 23, 2016
Syngenta unveiled its new Seedcare Institute in Stanton, MN, during a recent grand opening celebration. More than 150 industry leaders, Read More
StewardshipMonsanto Invests $1.6 Million In System To Quantify Gre…
September 23, 2016
The USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) recently awarded the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and its Soil Health Read More
Pipe rack
LegislationCourt Sides With Ag Retailers On PSM
September 23, 2016
The D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act when Read More
ManagementPacific Coast Fertilizer Announces Interest In Longview…
September 22, 2016
Pacific Coast Fertilizer LP (PCF) announced at the Cowlitz Economic Development Council board of directors meeting its interest in developing Read More
Young corn plants in soil
UncategorizedCool Planet Raises Additional $9 Million To Commerciali…
September 22, 2016
Cool Planet has announced the first close of a new financing round to commercialize the company’s Cool Terra Engineered Biocarbon Read More
Crop InputsJim Loar Promoted To President And CEO Of Cool Planet
September 22, 2016
In a move that reflects and reinforces the company’s commitment to the agricultural market, the Cool Planet board of directors Read More
BlendersNorth Dakota Coop Debuts Dry Fertilizer Plant
September 22, 2016
North Central Grain Cooperative has begun operations at a new dry fertilizer plant at its Rolla, ND, site. It is Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto, Bayer Officials Defend Proposed $66 Billion M…
September 21, 2016
Top officials for Monsanto and Bayer defended their proposed $66 billion merger before skeptical senators on Tuesday, insisting that the Read More
ManagementUpcoming Shows & Recent Events
September 19, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about upcoming trade shows and events and review the Mid America CropLife Association Read More
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Appoints New CEO
September 19, 2016
Verdesian Life Sciences, a plant health and nutrition company, today announced that its board of directors has named Kenneth M. Avery Read More
Corn
Crop InputsEPA Settles With Syngenta For Alleged Multi-Regional Pe…
September 19, 2016
The U.S. EPA has announced a multi-region settlement with Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC (Syngenta) in Greensboro, NC, for alleged violations of Read More
ManagementMerger Mania
September 16, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss this week’s mega-ag mergers of Bayer and Monsanto and Potash and Agrium. Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Ends Up Being A Bargain For Bayer
September 16, 2016
History will say Bayer got a bargain in its $66 billion purchase of Monsanto, writes David Nicklaus, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100California Ag Retailer Steps Up To Feed Families Affect…
September 16, 2016
GAR Tootelian, Inc. (GAR) in Reedley, CA, is challenging the Central Valley to help raise enough money and provide 525,000 meals Read More
Crop InputsBayer, Monsanto CEOs Discuss Merger
September 15, 2016
Werner Baumann, Bayer CEO, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto CEO, discuss why they decided to merge their companies. Read More
Corn close up
Crop InputsNY Times: Bayer-Monsanto a Bad Deal for Farmers
September 15, 2016
Via NY Times: Don Halcomb, a 63-year-old farmer in Adairville, KY, is expecting his profit to vanish this year, largely Read More