The state of Illinois has been a virtual island when it comes to having access to open real-time kinematic (RTK) systems like the Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) systems available in many states.
But not much longer. MyWay RTK LLC last month launched a cell-based RTK GPS solution that brings always-on, subscription-based positioning and wireless Internet access to growers and agribusinesses in Illinois. What makes MyWay RTK unique is its vision to interact with multiple brands of equipment and be distributed through a network of value-added dealers; all working together to promote the concept of open-access RTK correction to create more value for their farmer customers.
Unlike government-run CORS and private RTK networks available in many areas, MyWay RTK has been developed expressly for agriculture and is based on establishing base stations at participating agricultural service providers. These retailers, who serve as the trusted advisors to their grower-customers, will one day have access to an open pipeline through which information can be exchanged both with farmer customers as well as within the retailer’s own operation; all the while utilizing a common RTK correction.
Defining The Vision
Don Bierman, a veteran manager from Wabash Valley FS, was a key driver of the retail-based vision of MyWay RTK, bringing the technology, marketing and distribution know-how in Illinois to the table to help make the concept a reality. Bierman is now serving as interim leader of MyWay RTK LLC.
Finding a retailer champion was key, and in Illinois, Bloomington-based cooperative giant GROWMARK is supporting the MyWay RTK initiative. It has recommended select cooperative locations to serve as hosts for base stations. Once fully implemented, 49 base stations will be hosted throughout the state, providing statewide RTK coverage.
Sid Parks, precision agriculture manager at GROWMARK, recognized the potential benefits immediately when he first talked with supporters of MyWay RTK, and brought member coops to the table. “We have been a retail consumer of RTK service — our local cooperatives have been paying someone else to access RTK,” says Parks. “Now they can control that side of the equation.”
“Within the first five minutes of our meeting with Sid, we knew this would be a great opportunity for us,” says Mike Neef, operations manager for Piatt County FS in Monticello, IL, where one of the base stations resides. “What got me excited was the ability for retail to have a hand in the entire guidance program. We have always been on the outside, but now we will be able to sell the system.”
Another key benefit that Parks and GROWMARK cooperative managers see is that they will be able to one day share data wirelessly. “The ability to collect yield data and as-applied data, create and send prescription maps and send them through a mapping center in an FS office and out to our rigs spraying in the fields — the ability to communicate wirelessly is an enormous advantage,” says Parks. “Having to physically transfer information from cards and discs has been an obstacle to this industry for the last 15 years.”
For MyWay RTK, using agricultural retailers as the launch point provides other advantages as well. “To be really successful when doing something new, the hardest thing is getting to the customer,” says Bierman. “It made sense to build the system so that MyWay RTK partners are not only users of this service; they also have the ability to market this service to their customers who they see on daily basis.”
Truly Open Access
For his part, Bierman says service provider build out and resale of MyWay RTK services will be a powerful lure for new MyWay RTK users both within and outside Illinois. By allowing multiple resellers of MyWay RTK subscriptions under the one system, retailers and other service providers located within the state can continue to market to their customers.
“If you look at what we have to invest every year as service providers, to do what we do for our customers, why would you not make a relatively small investment to help assure you have a professionally-managed RTK system for you and your customers to utilize?” says Bierman.
Bierman expects that MyWay RTK will spread to other states, and he is actively meeting with interested retailers about the system.
For more information, visit the Web site at www.MyWayRTK.com.