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 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Crop InputsNufarm Fills Regulatory VP Position
December 18, 2014
Nufarm announced today that Rob Schwehr has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Innovation & Regulatory Affairs for Nufarm Americas. Read More
Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Avoid Aphid Infestation In Winter Wheat
December 10, 2014
The best strategy for managing aphid infestations in winter wheat — and the potential yellow dwarf diseases that they transmit — is prevention, according to a South Dakota State University Plant Pathology field specialist. Read More
LegislationDufault Installed As New ARA Chair
December 10, 2014
Dave Dufault, Vice President and General Manager of J.R. Simplot Company's Retail Business, was installed as the 2015 Chairman of the Board for ARA on December 4. Read More