Gravy Time For Guidance

Raven Cruizer Guidance

Many segments of the ag industry have money to spend this year, but they want to invest it wisely. That’s why growers and dealers are turning to GPS guidance systems and assorted add-on tools, say manufacturers of the technology. “Even though grain prices are good, farmers are feeling the pinch from higher input prices and are adopting precision farming practices to help,” says Dave King, marketing manager, Ag Leader.

Indeed, “guidance system sales have exploded,” says Rhett Schildroth, precision agriculture product marketing manager, Topcon Positioning Systems. The demand curve started to escalate big time over the last year — “and it continues to rise; it’s not linear, it’s exponential,” says Paul Welbig, business development manager, Raven Industries.

“And with higher input costs and other efficiencies in the production process, the adoption of GPS technology will grow, primarily due to the value it delivers to farm operation,” adds Rich Gould, vice president of product strategy for TeeJet/Spraying Systems Co.

That value is measurable in dollars and cents. “Once considered just nice to have, now GPS guidance tools are producing serious return-on-investment for growers by improving efficiency, reducing fatigue, saving time, fuel, overlap, etc., which can lower input costs and even increase yields,” says Joe Robertson, manager of communications with AutoFarm.

Savings will become even more important as commodity markets shift. Growers are also “facing up to the fact when commodity prices eventually fall, there will be another economic shakeout which only the efficient will survive,” says Rob Lindores, director of marketing, Trimble Agriculture Division.

Why The Gains

Part of the reason for glowing predictions is the decision by equipment manufacturers — who anticipate increased sales of tractors, combines, and the like — to install guidance options and steering options at the factory. In addition, units are being added at the licensed equipment dealership level.

“Farmers today consider an auto steering system to be an essential piece of equipment,” agrees Schildroth. “We expect that trend to continue to the point where virtually every new machine will be outfitted with an auto steering system of some type.”

It also appears there will be a lot of upgrading from lightbar guidance to real hands-free automated steering due to the latter’s efficiencies and reduced operator stress and fatigue, Robertson adds.

Emily Harringa, communications specialist with John Deere AMS, points to growers’ increasing adoption of farming techniques such as strip-till and variable-rate application to explain the boom in guidance sales. Strip-till, in particular, offers more efficiency in time, travel, and labor savings, says Robertson. It also means more demand for systems that promise repeatable accuracy, such as advertised by real-time kinematic (RTK) equipment and networks.

Welbig says the ethanol industry is a significant driver, but “the agriculture boom is not limited to U.S. production,” he says. “We’ve seen substantial growth in our international markets,” which include South America, Europe, Australia, and Canada. Then too, the recent devaluation of the U.S. dollar — which is making U.S. ag commodities more popular because of their lower international prices — is also making U.S. guidance products more desirable.
Now-pricier fertilizers used so much on the expanded corn acreage have particularly encouraged guidance system use. “The payback of auto section control devices for sprayers, spreaders, and anhydrous ammonia systems has jumped way up with the skyrocketing input costs,” says Topcon’s Schildroth. “Where previously it could take up to five years for systems to reach a payback, today the payback can sometimes occur in one season.”

Room For All?

Anhydrous has come back like a lion, says Welbig, so using guidance products to help apply it is more popular. Plus, he says applicators will add products like Raven’s Accu-Flow system to apply nitrogen at a specific application rate per acre.

“We’ve sold fewer cotton yield monitors with more cotton acres going to corn, but we have made this up with grain yield monitors for corn,” says Ag Leader’s King.

While the guidance market is hopping, competition is, admittedly, keen. “I don’t know if there will wind up being fewer companies in the precision agriculture arena, but the firms that focus on customer support and service in conjunction with innovative product offerings will fare much better,” says Hemisphere GPS’s Jeff Farrar, channel marketing manager.

Innovation, in part, would include developing products that can be used on already-owned systems. “We have a lot of products that can interface with the equipment they already have,” says Welbig. “My advice is you don’t have to throw away what you already have — you can add some of this technology in a lot more cost-effective manner and still get to take advantage of all the newest features that are available today and recoup rewards right away.”

“And the easier it is for growers to use a piece of precision agriculture equipment, the more likely they will be to buy and use it,” says Trevor Mecham, North American business manager, ag, for Leica Geosystems, creator of the Virtual Wrench Web-based service and support tool.

“We have seen an increase in companies sharing technology and resources in order to compete in this ever-changing industry,” says Farrar.

Auto Everything All The Buzz

CropLife asked manufacturers which of their guidance systems are generating the most buzz this spring. While companies are tweaking the nuts and bolts of the systems themselves, it’s the add-ons like new automatic steering, automatic boom section control, and automatic boom leveling they say are getting a lion’s share of buyers’ attention.

John Deere’s iTEC Pro allows automatic turning at headland boundaries and “is an exciting industry exclusive,” says Harringa. “It continues with the pattern of greater efficiency when an operator can allow iTEC Pro to slow the tractor speed, raise the implement, and complete a headland turn — all hands-free.”

Ag Leader’s SeedCommand and DirectCommand product lines have been of great interest to both growers and applicators, says King. “SeedCommand helps lower seed costs and improves yields by eliminating over-planting on end rows, point rows, and terraces. DirectCommand automatically turns boom sections on and off, helping to lower the cost of chemicals. It also automatically creates an application report based on your field work,” he explains. “This is great for government-required reporting and for custom applicators who want to provide a detailed report to their customers.”

Leica’s mojoRTK Console is the new platform for Leica’s 2-inch RTK auto-steer guidance system that fits into a standard radio slot. Mecham says the company squeezed everything drivers need in a stylish and compact unit that reduces cab clutter and makes driver operation simple.

Robertson says AutoFarm’s newest GPS product, the FarmPRO GPS Steering & Application Control System, is getting lots of attention. It combines “industry-leading sub-inch RTK steering from AutoFarm with state-of-the-art variable-rate spray and boom control in the Viper PRO from Raven Industries,” he says. It uses a single touch screen terminal at the operator’s fingertip.

More New Systems

TeeJet/Spraying Systems Co. is getting lots of requests for information on its FieldPilot and BoomPilot. “FieldPilot is an affordable way to add assisted steering to self-propelled sprayers and tractors,” explains Gould. “BoomPilot allows the user to automatically shut off or turn on boom sections in previously applied areas while they can pay attention to other settings or functions in the process of applying crop inputs.”

Trimble’s Lindores says the simple-to-use AgGPS EZ-Steer 500 has been appealing to both first-time GPS users as well as veteran operators.

Raven Industries’ new Raven Cruizer “goes back to that simple, affordable, cost-effective guidance system to reach the late adopter group,” says Welbig. “It’s simple to use, simple to install, simple to operate — at an affordable price. It definitely hits that market that’s been begging for something.” Raven also introduced the Envizio Pro last summer, which is capable of adding AccuBoom, AutoBoom, and automatic product control/variable-rate application.

Introduced just this February by Hemisphere GPS, the Outback S3 combines the established Outback S2 and the Outback 360 with the latest development in Crescent GPS receiver technology, says Farrar. It features a high-resolution touch screen display that provides clear, easy-to-read job data and system status information in real time. Though the S3 is loaded with features and the latest technology, it is extremely easy to use, he adds.

Topcon Positioning System’s flagship product, the X20, continues to be a big seller. Users can start with a simple screen-based manual guidance system and quickly and easily add many applications without cluttering up the equipment cab, says Schildroth. In fact, the new X20 console has a super-bright touch screen that is 70% larger than previous models for ease of viewing and use.

 

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