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 AgUAVs To Take Flight At 2015 Farm Science Review
August 14, 2015
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have taken the agriculture industry by storm and will soon be Read More
Crop InputsFSR Agronomy College Aims To Keep Agronomic Professionals Sharp
August 11, 2015
From watching for insects and diseases, to carefully applying chemicals and curtailing runoff, to keeping up with ever advancing technology, Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
Topcon AGI-4 on MF Planter
EquipmentAutosteer: Compatibility, Accuracy Remain Top Of Mind
July 3, 2015
The world of automatic steering solutions in agriculture has evolved rapidly in the last few years. From after-market add-ons that Read More
Top 100 Articles
Crop InputsLand ‘O Lakes, United Suppliers Finalize Merger
August 24, 2015
According to a press release on August 24, owners of United Suppliers, Inc. and members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “have Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Iowa Cooperatives To Explore Unification
August 19, 2015
The boards of directors at two of Iowa’s leading farmer-owned cooperatives yesterday signed a letter of intent to study the Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
CropLife 100Aligned Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases California-Based Specialty Crops Retailer
July 20, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has successfully acquired California-based NH3 Service Co.  Operating as part of Pinnacle’s Performance Agriculture brand, the new locations Read More
Asmus Farm Supply liquid fertilizer facility features 20,000 square feet
CropLife 100Slideshow: Asmus Farm Supply Shows Off Its New Liquid Fertilizer Facility
July 15, 2015
Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, recently added a new liquid fertilizer facility to its company operations. The new liquid fertilizer Read More
Latest News
Melissa Olds Dow AgroSciences
Crop InputsDow AgroSciences: Highlighting The Past, Present & …
September 2, 2015
In general, media events held by large agricultural suppliers tend to focus primarily on what plans the company has in Read More
Mobile tablet
OpinionTaking Data Head On
September 2, 2015
As you read this column, I’m hoping that if you picked up the phone and gave me a call, you’d Read More
Young soybean field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Announces New Business Unit Head For…
September 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America announces the addition of Rico Christensen, Business Unit Head, North America. Christensen will have responsibility for Read More
Wilbur Ellis Pink Soybean Seed Treatment
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Goes Pink With Soybean Seed Treatments For…
September 1, 2015
This past year, proceeds of pink-dyed soybeans treated and sold to Wilbur-Ellis seed customers in Chester, SD, went to two Read More
SprayersNORAC Active Wing Roll Slated For More Sprayers
September 1, 2015
NORAC Systems, a member of the Topcon Positioning Group, announces the release of Active Wing Roll for RoGator, Apache, New Read More
Syngenta Sign
FungicidesSyngenta’s Newest Fungicide Receives EPA Approval
September 1, 2015
Syngenta announced today that its newest succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) fungicide – Solatenol – has received registration from EPA and Read More
Flooded corn in Indiana
Crop InputsDelaying The Fertilizer Decision
September 1, 2015
Comments gathered from several retailers recently evidenced a classic good-news-bad-news scenario. Good news is prices and supplies of nitrogen, phosphate, Read More
StewardshipBee Buffer Strip Initiative Seeks 100 Ohio Farmers
August 31, 2015
The U.S. Bee Buffer Project, an initiative of the Pollinator Partnership (P2), Burt’s Bees and The Burt’s Bees Greater Good Read More
2015 ShowStopper Award, MAGIE
EquipmentA ShowStopper From Case IH: The Patriot 2250
August 31, 2015
For nine years now, visitors to the yearly Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) show have been tasked with not only Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto, FMC Expand Roundup Ready PLUS Platform
August 31, 2015
FMC Corp. and Monsanto Co. announced today an expanded agreement to continue their participation in the Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Read More
Deere Nutrient Applicator
Eric SfiligojThe Good & Bad News From MAGIE
August 31, 2015
As I write this column, I’ve just returned from the annual Midwest AG Industries (MAGIE) trade show in Bloomington, IL. Read More
CPS Morenci receiving its 4R certification
StewardshipCPS Morenci Becomes First Michigan Facility Certified I…
August 31, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that Crop Production Services, Inc.’s facility located in Morenci, MI, has been Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Soucy Track Distribution Alliance
August 28, 2015
John Deere announces an alliance with Soucy Track to sell and distribute products through the John Deere dealer channel. “This Read More
FertilizerFall-Applied Phosphorus: A Rooted Investment
August 28, 2015
As commodity prices decrease and input prices continue to rise, farmers are seeking more efficient strategies for meeting a high Read More
Monsanto Sign
Crop InputsWhat’s Next For Monsanto, Syngenta?
August 28, 2015
After dropping its $47 billion bid to take over Swiss agribusiness firm Syngenta, Monsanto may be turning its focus to Read More
Golden Harvest Corn stalks
Crop InputsMonsanto: Syngenta Not The Only Horse In Crop Protectio…
August 28, 2015
Monsanto Co, having ditched an audacious $46 billion (£30 billion) offer for Syngenta AG, may downshift to a humbler strategy Read More
ManagementConsolidation hits and a miss; And a look at China’s ch…
August 28, 2015
As Monsanto suspends its pursuit of Syngenta, consolidation news at the retail and distribution level heats up. CropLife magazine’s Executive Read More
Corn Field
MicronutrientsHuma Gro Introduces New Boron Liquid Nutrient Formulati…
August 28, 2015
BORO-MAX, a new boron (B) 10% liquid nutrient formulation, has been added to the Huma Gro product line. This new Read More