In-Cab Systems Innovate, Increase Productivity

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Matrix Pro 570GS, TeeJet Technologies

Matrix Pro 570GS, TeeJet Technologies

With applicators demanding new options and capabilities from in-cab computing systems, manufacturers are taking notice and trotting out enhanced solutions for everyone from the novice beginner to the seasoned precision ag enthusiast.

According to Leica Geosystem’s Harlan Little, NAFTA agriculture business manager, ease-of-use remains an immense focus going forward. “Easy installation and ease-of-use are the biggest things that retailers and growers both say they need,” he says. “And Leica Geosystems continues to offer exactly that — easy-to-install systems like the mojo3D that can be placed in a steer-ready machine in a matter of minutes. The mojo3D achieves this by offering a setup wizard that walks the user through the needed measurements to configure the vehicle.

“Leica is also making sure that our equipment is able to connect to nearly any machine out there, and we have just announced the release of the Steer Direct ES Electric Steering system that aids in adding automated steering to older units or one that does not have the hydraulic valve needed,” Little adds. “In addition, Leica has also released connection to the John Deere “R’ series tractors via the CAN connection. This allows a grower to simply plug in the mojo3D, put the antennas on the roof and go.”

Meanwhile, Ag Leader is focusing its resources on water management efficiencies at a worthy time: One year after one of the most devastating droughts in U.S. history.

“Ag Leader has entered the water management market with the release of Intellislope, a new functionality available through the Ag Leader Integra display which provides tile plow control for installing field drainage tile,” says Ag Leader Product Manager Aaron Friedlen. “Intellislope makes it simple to properly install drainage tile, leading to increased flexibility and higher yields.”

Offering three main in-cab computing platforms (Cruizer II, Envizio Pro II and Viper Pro), Raven Industries continues to tweak its systems to allow increased connectivity.

“Emphasis on interfacing and integration to all of the various Raven application control, planter, harvest, steering and Slingshot systems to allow the user to have one field computer platform that will meet their current and future farming needs is a big focus for us,” says Ryan Molitor, marketing supervisor. “In addition, we continue to invest on interface enhancements to Raven’s Slingshot system for automatic job file transfer, including remote support to help growers and applicators efficiently move data and provide support options without requiring costly trips to the field.”

Raven has also tweaked its Viper Pro and Envizio Pro II displays for enhanced control. “We’ve witnessed an increased demand for the ability to apply multiple products at the same time – helping to reduce the required number of trips through the field,” says Molitor. “In response, Raven has increased the control options on both the Viper Pro and Envizio Pro II systems, including direct injection options.”

What’s Next For The Cab?

The answers varied greatly among the experts we spoke with when asked what the next “big thing” will be for in-cab computing systems.

Al Myers, founder and president of Ag Leader Technology, responded: “The next revolution in precision technologies will be real-time connectivity between machines in the field, between field machines and the office, or between machines and the farm owner, manager, consultant or supplier. This will happen through wireless communication technologies being built into new machines or retrofitted onto older machines.”

TeeJet’s Tim Stuenkel, global marketing communications manager, sees the industry taking a cue from its counterparts in Europe. “Dry spreader swath control is a topic that may be new to many North American growers, but could have greater relevance in the future. Dry spreader manufacturers in Europe take a very sophisticated approach to spreader design and control systems. Unlike the one-dimensional nature of a spray boom, dry spreaders are two-dimensional and require a far more sophisticated approach to swath management which we can provide via Matrix Pro GS and Aeros 9040. As the North American dry spreader market moves to more sophisticated designs, which could offer significant improvements in the accuracy and efficiency of product application, dry spreader automatic swath control will be indispensable.”

For Leica Geosystems, a focus going forward will be integrating common office technology into the cab. “The cab is being viewed as a portable office now, so functions that are expected in a typical office will continue to show up in the cab,” says Harlan Little, NAFTA agriculture business manager. “I think we will see the adoption of non-job specific computers being used, such as tablets and smart phones either running apps or server-based operations to control the various activities going on in the field. This will allow the operator even more freedom to make sure the best job possible is being completed.”

Like Raven, Trimble currently offers three displays: The FmX integrated display, the CFX-750 display and the EZ-Guide 250 system.

“The FmX display is ideal for farmers who require high accuracy levels and enhanced functionality, the CFX-750 is ideal for broad acre and row crop farming applications with almost any crop type, field shape, or soil type, and the EZ-Guide 250 provides basic guidance functionalities,” says Mike Martinez, market manager, Trimble Agriculture Division.

With three displays currently on the market, Trimble is turning its attention to ensuring ease-of-use for its users, according to Martinez. “Trimble understands that ease-of-use is critical – especially as our precision farming functionality continues to grow.

“However,” Martinez cautions. “Operators can only keep up with so many changes, so Trimble focuses on developing both intelligent and intuitive user interfaces where set-up and use of the in-cab display is so simple and understandable that operators need very little training to get up to speed on new and existing functionality. For example, we use setup ‘wizards’ on Trimble’s CFX-750 display that guide a user step-by-step through a first-time configuration of a new feature.”

Another capability that Trimble’s customers demand is high-accuracy GNSS correction services, according to Martinez. “At the end of the day, we need to ensure we are delivering what the customer wants. An example of this is our offering of GNSS corrections services: CenterPoint RTX and the new RangePoint RTX. Customers asked for affordable high-performing correction services that could be made available anywhere in the world without the requirement to be near transmitter towers – an option that is extremely flexible to their needs.

“Trimble responded by offering two satellite-delivered options that are exclusive to Trimble users,” adds Martinez. “The CenterPoint RTX service offers 1.5 inch repeatable accuracy that is broadcast over a satellite network and is available on almost every farm in the world. And for the grower that doesn’t need a high level of accuracy, the new RangePoint RTX service offers the same high quality and reliability of the CenterPoint RTX service, but has an accuracy of 6 inches pass-to-pass – perfect for most broad acre applications.”

TeeJet Technologies is offering a couple of brand-new in-cab computing systems for 2013, starting with the Matrix Pro GS, an upgrade of the Matrix and Matrix Pro.

“The Matrix Pro GS introduces several new features operating on a more powerful, next-generation processor. Advanced swath control capabilities allow for automatic boom section control on sprayers equipped with offset (staggered) booms, as well as supporting automatic swath control for dry spreaders,” says Tim Stuenkel, global marketing communications manager. “With the addition of an optional pressure transducer, Matrix Pro GS provides real-time droplet size monitoring for sprayer applications, and the Matrix Pro GS continues to support all the features/upgrades offered on previous generation consoles including: FieldPilot or UniPilot assisted steering, RealView guidance over video, video camera monitoring, application mapping/ record keeping and BoomPilot automatic boom section control.”

Also new for 2013 from TeeJet is the Aeros 9040 Field Computer.

“Featuring a new, streamlined console with 8.4 inch touchscreen display, the Aeros 9040 interfaces with reliable, proven control modules to provide precision GPS guidance, auto-steering, application rate control, mapping, variable rate application, Automatic Boom Section Control (ABSC), droplet size monitoring, video camera monitoring and even wireless data transfer,” says Stuenkel. “Like Matrix, Aeros features an integral WAAS accuracy receiver as standard equipment with optional GPS receiver upgrades to support OmniSTAR and Network RTK signals, and is a full-featured, expandable control platform ideal for a wide range of application equipment including self-propelled sprayers and dry spreaders.”

Grassi is the Assistant Editor for the CropLife Media Group, including CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines and the PrecisionAg Special Reports. He joined the staff in February 2012.

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