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

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
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
Trending Articles
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
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
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Latest News
Roy Blunt
LegislationARA Recognizes Blunt, Heitkamp For Legislative Efforts …
February 17, 2017
Agricultural industry continues to face federal regulatory challenges. Thankfully, agriculture’s allies in the U.S. Senate stepped forward. The Agricultural Retailers Read More
LegislationThe Fertilizer Institute Commends Senate On Confirmatio…
February 17, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn issued the following statement on the Senate confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Read More
Trump, Senate, Cabinet
LegislationBREAKING: Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt Confirmed by S…
February 17, 2017
Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various Read More
ManagementFebruary Road Trip Edition
February 17, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent visits to Indiana and Kentucky. Read More
Heritage Cooperative Finished Building Aerial
ManagementHeritage Cooperative, Agland Co-op Approve Merger
February 17, 2017
Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative stockholders have both approved the merger agreement between Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative. Now begins Read More
LegislationARA Fly-In: Ag Retail Descends on Capitol Hill, Lawmake…
February 15, 2017
More than 100 agricultural retailers, distributors and suppliers headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning for the Agribusiness Congressional Fly-in, according to a Read More
Untreated soybean seed Heartland Coop
Seed/BiotechMarrone Bio Innovations, Groundwork BioAg Bio-stacked M…
February 13, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. and Groundwork BioAg, Ltd have announced successful seed treatment field trials of the world’s first all-biological Read More
NL5000 With G5 Technology
SpreadersNew Leader Introduces NL5000 Dry Nutrient Applicator Wi…
February 13, 2017
New Leader, a division of Highway Equipment Company (HECO), has announced the next generation of spreading technology with the NL5000 Read More
Fertilizer Storage
Crop InputsThe State Of The Fertilizer Industry
February 9, 2017
He’s all hat, no horse.” It’s a humorous way of describing a person who tells a good story, but is Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Agrees To Credit Agreement Amendme…
February 9, 2017
Pinnacle Operating Corp. has entered into an amendment (the “Amendment”) to its First Lien Credit Agreement that will provide for, Read More
ManagementUpdates on Upcoming Trips, Dow-DuPont, and the Des Moin…
February 9, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review a few future travels, along with the latest on big company mergers and Read More
Championship Tractor Pull
EquipmentNational Farm Machinery Show Highlighted By Championshi…
February 9, 2017
The scream of monster engines, the stench of burning rubber and the ground-pounding vibrations of the country’s largest, loudest and 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
Corn Field
InsecticidesArysta LifeScience, DuPont Collaborate On Rynaxpyr Prem…
February 8, 2017
Arysta LifeScience recently announced that it has entered into a global collaboration with DuPont Crop Protection for the development of Read More
Industry NewsThe Fertilizer Institute Board Elects New Chairman, Vic…
February 8, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) Board of Directors has elected Chuck Magro, President and CEO of Agrium, and Tony Will, President Read More
Sonny Perdue
ManagementARA Joins More Than 600 Organizations In Support Of Per…
February 8, 2017
The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) recently joined with more than 600 agricultural groups on a letter of support for Governor Read More
World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit Panel 2016
Crop InputsWorld Agri-Tech Innovation Summit To Be Held In San Fra…
February 8, 2017
“Breakthrough Applications and Business Models for Sustainable Farming” is the theme of the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit to be held Read More
Cedar Country Cooperative
Eric SfiligojConsolidation In Agriculture: More Middle Movement
February 7, 2017
If you’ve regularly followed my column, you know I’m something of a movie junkie. Like many, one of my favorite Read More