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

Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
Precision AgGrowing Demand For High Tech Agriculture Sparking Discussion
March 3, 2017
How can information technology be best harnessed to solve challenges in food and agriculture? That’s a question being asked more Read More
EquipmentWhat Does FBN’s Latest Attempt At Disintermediation Really Mean For Ag Retailers?
February 6, 2017
When Farmer’s Business Network (FBN), the Silicon Valley-based ag data startup that promises to leverage all kinds of on-farm data Read More
Farmobile Dashboard Heat Map
Precision AgFarmobile’s EFR Dashboard Brings Real-Time Metrics To The Coffee Table
January 1, 2017
Farmobile is one of many data start-ups that we’ve been closely observing with a sense of keen curiosity since they Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Trending Articles
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teaching Fertilizer Education
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
AdjuvantsA New Weed-Control Era Begins: But First, One Last Obstacle
March 4, 2017
There is trepidation, there is reluctance, and there is excitement. Ag retailers feel it all about the new dicamba and Read More
LIFT Academy video screenshot
Crop InputsLIFT Agriculture Academy: A Q&A With West Central Distribution’s Dean Hendrickson
March 1, 2017
West Central Distribution recently launched its LIFT Agriculture Academy, a new, premiere training and professional development resource for West Central’s ag Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Latest News
Soybean Closeup
FungicidesNew CROSSOVER PRO Formulation Offers Insect and Disease…
March 29, 2017
INNVICTIS CROP CARE, LLC has launched CROSSOVER PRO as a first of its kind formulation combining propiconazole and lambda-cyhalothrin for Read More
Trade Summit
Crop Inputs3 Compelling Reasons to Attend the AgriBusiness Global …
March 29, 2017
The AgriBusiness Global Trade Summit is the world’s premier sourcing event for crop protection and plant health products. Its core Read More
ManagementStudy: Farming Becoming Riskier Under Climate Change
March 28, 2017
Scientists the world over are working to predict how climate change will affect our planet. It is an extremely complex Read More
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionProtecting Nitrogen Provides Economic, Environmental RO…
March 28, 2017
Every business looks to improve its return on investment and reduce its risk of loss. Farmers are no different, yet Read More
Water Drainage
Eric SfiligojDMWW Lawsuit Dismissal Good News for Ag
March 27, 2017
On March 17 while most of the nation was toasting St. Patrick’s Day, agriculture was likely lifting a glass (or Read More
Eric Jenks, Wilbur-Ellis
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Launches ADVANTIGRO Plant Growth Regulator…
March 27, 2017
Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness, a recognized leader in the marketing and distribution of crop protection, seed and nutritional products, as well as Read More
Yara West Sacramento Ribbon Cutting
Crop InputsYara West Sacramento Is Newest Addition
March 27, 2017
Yara’s West Sacramento Terminal was officially welcomed March 21 as the newest Yara North America facility in the U.S. While continually Read More
UncategorizedPrecision Ag, Iowa Water, and GM Corn Updates
March 24, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj look at the state of precision agriculture, the dismissal of the Des Moines Water Read More
Pam Marrone
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Enters Biostimulants Market Wit…
March 23, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. is expanding beyond biopesticides and crop protection and into the biostimulant market by commercially launching Haven Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teach…
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
ManagementThink You Know Water? Take WinField United’s R…
March 22, 2017
Water is among our most precious resources, and arguably the hardest working, with just one percent available for human use, Read More
Corn Field
LegislationTFI Hopes Court Dismissal Is ‘Final Chapter’…
March 20, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) released the following statement from President, Chris Jahn on the March 17, 2017, federal court dismissal Read More
Wheat Growers
Industry NewsWheat Growers CEO Dale Locken To Retire
March 20, 2017
CEO Dale Locken has announced that he plans to retire from Wheat Growers. Locken has served almost 15 years as Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Eric SfiligojBayer-Monsanto: Life, LibertyLink, And The Pursuit Of R…
March 20, 2017
As the calendar officially turns to spring, life is in full renewal mode. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and Read More
Corn Field
Crop InputsUltra Yield Micronutrients Acquires Kronos Micronutrien…
March 16, 2017
Ultra Yield Micronutrients, Inc. ”Ultra”, an affiliate of Cameron Chemicals, Inc., is pleased to announce that it has acquired the Read More
ManagementSnowstorms, Asset Sales, and Soybeans Prices
March 16, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the weather, precision ag, crop protection company mergers, and commodity prices in this Read More
Soybean Field
Seed/BiotechBayer Invests $8.1 million In Soybean Advancement In Th…
March 16, 2017
Growers in Illinois and across the Midwest now have the added benefit of a state-of-the-art soybean research facility, increasing accessibility Read More
CHS
CropLife 100CHS Acquires Western Co-op Transport Association
March 16, 2017
CHS Inc., North America’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, has purchased Western Co-op Transport Read More