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

Precision AgUAS: The S Stands For Smart, Service And Sensors
May 1, 2014
The only thing occuring more rapidly than the technologies’ evolution is the clamoring to implement UAS into agriculture as soon as possible. Read More
Precision AgAg Retail: 3 Tech Trends To Watch In 2014
April 1, 2014
It's been a busy first quarter of technology developments in 2014. Here are some of the highlights, and things to watch in the months ahead. Read More
Valley Variable Rate Irrigation
Precision AgMaximizing Returns From Water Inputs
March 3, 2014
Irrigation manufacturers have developed some vital new technologies to fine-tune irrigation and save growers money, water, energy and labor. Read More
Todd Golly and UAVs
Precision AgReal-World UAV Experience In Agriculture
February 3, 2014
Minnesota grower Todd Golly shares his views on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Read More

Trending Articles

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
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechBerendes Joins Verdesian Board Of Directors
September 2, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences announced that Robert Berendes has recently joined the company's board of directors. 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
WebinarsWebinars On Demand
September 2, 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
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches Performance Agriculture Brand
September 2, 2014
Performance Agriculture complements Pinnacle’s existing brands, including Sanders, the company’s flagship farm input retail brand. Read More
Webinars5 Key Benefits Of Attending A Webinar
September 2, 2014
Webinars can provide ag retailers with a convenient option for gaining knowledge on the latest industry issues and solutions. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Is Betting On A Bright Agricultural Future
September 1, 2014
The crop protection products giant is gearing up for a busy time in agriculture by investing in both product production and development over the next couple of years. Read More
Eric SfiligojAn Erie Feeling For Ag
September 1, 2014
Plenty of water issues have been in the news lately, including the continuing drought in California. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires California-Based Retailer
August 29, 2014
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings will acquire Kerman Ag Resources, Inc., which will operate under Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementArcadia Co-op To Merge With Allied Cooperative
August 28, 2014
Allied Cooperative has announced that members of Arcadia Co-op voted in favor of a merger with Allied Cooperative, paving the way for the consolidation which will be effective on December 1, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesBioinsecticide VENERATE Now Registered In California
August 27, 2014
Marrone Bio Innovations' VENERATE is a new tool to help California growers control crop-damaging insect pests, fight the development of insect resistance and reduce pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Read More
CropLife 100Two Iowa-Based Ag Co-ops To Merge
August 27, 2014
The Board of Directors and management of United Western Coop, Missouri Valley, IA has completed a merger with Heartland Co-op, West Des Moines, IA, effective September 1, 2014. Read More
FertilizerKoch Expands AGROTAIN Nitrogen Stabilizer Portfolio
August 26, 2014
Koch Agronomic Services, LLC has added two new innovative nitrogen stabilizers to the AGROTAIN product family – AGROTAIN ADVANCED and AGROTAIN DRI-­MAXX. Read More
Seed/BiotechDuPont To Build Two Seed Treatment Centers
August 26, 2014
DuPont has announced construction on two state-of-the-art centers dedicated to developing and testing seed treatment formulations, applications and seed handling techniques in an important step toward bringing new solutions to growers. Read More
Seed/BiotechLoveland Products Acquires A Controlling Interest In Ag…
August 26, 2014
Loveland Products, a subsidiary of Agrium , has announced the company has acquired a controlling interest in Agricen, a Dallas-area agricultural biotechnology company delivering biochemical-based products for efficient and sustainable plant nutrition. Read More
StewardshipUp Close Look At The 2014 Environmental Respect Award W…
August 25, 2014
The 2014 Environmental Respect Award winners were honored recently at the 24th annual event in Wilmington, DE. Read More
Eric SfiligojAg Science Rejection Carries Consequences
August 25, 2014
As innuendo and fear dog the regulatory process, agriculture can’t get the new tools it needs to combat world hunger. Read More
LegislationFarmers Dismayed As New Farm Bill Dumps Direct Payments
August 25, 2014
The threatened end of cash subsidies to the nation’s row crop farmers dates back through at least the last two iterations of national agriculture policy legislation. 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