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 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
Valley Variable Rate Irrigation
Precision AgMaximizing Returns From Water Inputs
March 3, 2014
Irrigation manufacturers have developed some vital new technologies to fine-tune irrigation and save growers money, water, energy and labor. Read More
Todd Golly and UAVs
Precision AgReal-World UAV Experience In Agriculture
February 3, 2014
Minnesota grower Todd Golly shares his views on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More
EquipmentKinze, Raven Team Up On 4900 Planter Monitor
July 23, 2014
Kinze Manufacturing announces a partnership with Raven Industries to develop a standalone monitor solution for the Kinze 4900 series planter. With this new Read More
LegislationNew Farm Bill Continues To Confuse As Growers Await USD…
July 23, 2014
The new five-year Farm Bill eliminates many of the direct payments previously payed to growers and could benefit from USDA clarification, reports a Toledo Blade columnist. Read More
EquipmentPrecisionAg.com Relaunches With Responsive Design For M…
July 22, 2014
PrecisionAg, the worldwide leader in precision agriculture information and analysis, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, PrecisionAg.com. Read More
FungicidesEPA OKs Two Willowood Fungicides
July 21, 2014
The EPA has approved Willowood Azoxy 2SC and Willowood AzoxyProp Xtra. two widely used broad spectrum, preventative fungicides with systemic and curative properties. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learning Fast As UAVs Take Off
July 17, 2014
Farmers and others interested in how UAVs can be used in agricultural applications were able to learn more about the technology during the recent Precision Aerial Ag Show. Read More
CropLife 100Bobby Knight, Richard Petty To Highlight Ag PhD Field D…
July 17, 2014
Attendees at the July 24 Ag PhD Field Day at Hefty Farms will learn about the latest agricultural technologies, and get a chance to meet legendary sports figures Bobby Knight and Richard Petty. Read More