Invisible Force

RFID TagsNot long ago, a technology known as radio frequency identification, or RFID, burst onto the scene as the ultimate answer to accurate inventory control. RFID is essentially comprised of two key components — a chip which contains information, and a reader that can pick the information off the chip from various distances depending on the sophistication of the system.

RFID technology has become ubiquitous on many toll roads (chip placed on windshield and read by a scanner at the toll booth) and in high-security clearance areas (chip placed on worker badges) to streamline security and traffic control.

But it has been used on precious few other applications — until recently. Rich Bravman, president and CEO of Intelleflex, a company that specializes in RFID technology, is helping a number of industries apply the technology in productive ways. He explained that RFID is a technology that is finally “Crossing The Chasm,” to quote the famous technology evolution book by Geoffrey Moore, and is already positively affecting product distribution and tracking in agriculture.

There are applications both extremely simple and wildly complex to which RFID technology is being applied. At the ag dealership, a good example of a company taking baby steps toward using RFID is Bear River Supply in Rio Oso, CA.

Based in the north Sacramento Valley serving rice, specialty, and row crop growers, Bear River will loan equipment for growers to use throughout the year, but in particular during the busy spring season. “They use pull spreaders, liquid fertilizer applicators, storage tanks, tenders, spreaders, and other equipment,” says Rich French, location manager at Bear River. “Tracking this equipment has always been a challenge — it goes out and sometimes stays there, and sometimes moves from farmer to farmer. So we were looking for some way to keep track of it.”

They decided to give the RFID system a try. In Bear River’s case, the system utilizes a reader at the location entrance, individual and inexpensive RFID tags for each piece of traced equipment, and software to record reader data when it recognizes a tag.

Each piece of equipment gets a plastic RFID tag, which is loaded with information about the unit it is identifying. When a piece of equipment leaves the yard, the reader picks up the tag information and sends it wirelessly to the office computer, which displays and records the information. Because the equipment is delivered by Bear River employees to the grower location, the destination of the equipment can be easily confirmed by the employee.

If the equipment needs to be moved from one grower location to another, the employee can pick up the equipment, move it to another location, and mark the new location using a portable tag reader. Back at the office, the information can be loaded into the system, which updates the location of the equipment.

More Possibilities

French says that while the simple equipment tracking is making a big difference for their business, “we are still getting our arms around this and learning new ways to use it every day.”

French says that he expects to be expanding his use of RFID tagging next season. He hopes to be using it to track down “lost” equipment by bringing out portable readers to farm sites. They will also be using it for more types of equipment that tend to get lost in the shuffle of the busy season. “We deliver tanks with gas engine pumps that cost $500 to $1,000, and if you can recover one or two of these that grower lose track of, you do very well,” says French.

They are also looking at storing more information on the tags, including maintenance records for internal and regulatory purposes. “We would like to use them on more vehicles to tell us where a vehicle went, and track information about where products were delivered and who is using what service.”

Finally, French is exploring the use of tags to establish a fixed location. “If we tag a portable storage tank, we can set the tank and mark a GPS point,” says French. “That way, when we send trucks to deliver to that particular tank location, the GPS mark becomes a way point that we can indicate on a map and provide mapped navigation to the driver.”

French admits that he’s only touched the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to RFID technology, “but we’re constantly looking for new ways to use it.”

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