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 AgGoogle Glass: New Tool For Ag
October 8, 2014
New wearable smart technologies such as Google Glass show potential to greatly impact how we accomplish the business of feeding the world. Read More
Precision AgPrecision Agriculture: Finding The Payback
September 6, 2014
Profitability in precision ag is not about any one technology, but the result of employing technology in a total system approach that is agronomically sound. Read More
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
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More
ManagementRetail Week: Precision survey, a technology acquisition…
March 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sflilgoj discuss recent travel, the upcoming precision adoption survey, and an unusual sighting at a Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Launching TerraGrow Soil Inoculant
March 20, 2015
TerraGrow is a blend of beneficial bacterial and fungal spores and nutrients carefully designed to promote healthier soil and crops. Read More
Winter Wheat
AdjuvantsMax Systems Debuts New Adjuvant NanoRevolution 2.0
March 18, 2015
Added to a tank mix of glyphosate at the conservative rate of two to four ounces per acre, NanoRevolution 2.0 has proven effective in killing resistant weed species that had already had up to two applications of the leading glyphosate product. Read More
Photo credit: United Soybean Board/the Soybean Checkoff
Seed/BiotechAgnition Launches Microbial Catalyst Seed Treatment
March 18, 2015
Agnition it has launched Commence for Soybeans, a microbial catalyst seed treatment for soybeans that stimulates microbial activity for healthier soil and a superior growth environment. Read More
4R Certified, Nutrient Stewardship Council,
StewardshipTyler Grain & Fertilizer Now 4R Certified
March 18, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Tyler Grain & Fertilizer Co. in Smithville, OH, has been added to Read More