Time For Telematics

Telematics

Whether you call it “the next frontier” or “the next big thing,” telemetry is set to revolutionize precision agriculture. Simply defined, it’s the transmitting of data via wireless communication links. The idea is to allow in-the-field equipment to transmit and receive data from a home base or another field communication unit.

For several years in the U.S., farm site weather stations and moisture monitors have used telemetry to transmit their data. “It provides users such as growers and co-ops with real-time information on what the weather is doing in a field,” says Rich Hilliker, regional sales manager, western region, Trimble. “It’s especially helpful in areas with very strange weather patterns.”

Telemetry is currently going strong in many parts of Europe. “Look at some of the systems where they’re monitoring combines,” says Mark Hansen, product marketing manager for advanced technology solutions for North America at AGCO. “They know exactly what the settings are on a particular machine at any given time.”

Levels Of Application

Several precision agriculture manufacturers are developing applications for wider U.S. markets, with equipment efficiency as a key driver. “In agriculture you’ve got this high vehicle population that effectively runs out in remote areas. And they need to run when they need to run — like in springtime, planting, or harvest — at extended hours,” says Mike Gomes, OEM accounts manager for Topcon Precision Agriculture.

Guidance system firms envision different levels of telemetry adoption. The first is simple fleet tracking and management, to collect very basic information about where machines are, explains Hansen. Higher-end systems would deliver information and log extensive data on what’s going on in a machine at any given time. Gomes sees today’s high-functioning cab guidance consoles as natural precursors for telematic use. So your rig becomes “not just a smart machine, but a smart machine that can talk,” he says.

Perhaps a dream come true for an applicator would be to have telematic capabilities on all equipment. “It would be great for a TerraGator driver — not just the fleet manager back at the plant — to know where your tenders are … to know how far away trucks are and when you can expect them,” Hansen describes.

Topcon is bringing its expertise from the construction equipment industry to bear on ag applications. In some cases, the company can use the same hardware, but different user interfaces and different remote monitoring, says Gomes. Topcon has beta projects out, extensively testing telemetry products, trying to make sure it’s offering solutions that customers want. (Topcon just introduced The Weather Station module for its X20 Guidance System, which measures apparent wind speed and direction, air temperature, and relative humidity — all data for downloading back at the office.)

Hansen says AGCO is deciding, in particular, how to address the “back office” end of the data generated by telematics. “We’re exploring if we’re going to develop this internally or look to best-in-class providers.”

One of AGCO’s goals is to make the data collection process much less intrusive in customers’ businesses. In a custom application business, for instance, “you can’t necessarily expect an employee to remember to log data off a machine at any given time. If you can automate the process for them, I think that will help the business quite a bit,” says Hansen. He believes AGCO will have something in production in the next 12 months to 18 months.

Trimble has already brought its telematics knowledge from other industries to bear with the introduction of its new Agriculture Manager asset management system in January. Hilliker says the product combines GPS, machine sensors, and automated wireless communications to allow growers to more efficiently manage and operate large machinery fleets with one system. “It can automatically notify fleet managers via cell phone if key events occur, such as vehicle servicing is required, a sprayer needs refilling, or an ignition is off.”

John Deere is at work on a new product to replace its JDLink Machine Messenger service, which had used telematics for five years to provide real-time information from tractors. The service was halted in February when the Federal Communications Commission allowed cellular operators (in this case, Verizon) to turn off analog services. Product Marketing Manager Loann Hausner says the new product — available within two years — will be able to report tractor location, fuel tank level, on/off/working status, current tractor settings, and much more.

Decide For Your Operation

One question dealers and growers will need to ask is if they have the infrastructure to support telemetry. “Cellular and WiFi give the ability to move large amounts of data economically,” says Hilliker. “Being able to use existing infrastructure eliminates the expense and hassle of building your own private radio networks,” he says.

While cellular technology has come a long way, some rural areas still lack reliable signals. “We’re a big old country with lots of gaps, and that’s going to be a bit of a challenge in the initial stages of telemetry products,” says Hansen.
Manufacturers don’t see price as a problem. Trimble’s Agriculture Manager costs $695 for hardware, plus a monthly subscription plan, which ranges from $24.95 to $49.95. Amy Wigginton, marketing communications manager, says options to purchase additional services such as two-way messaging (similar to text messaging) are available as well.

AGCO’s Hansen envisions “high hundreds to low thousands for a basic system, and a couple thousand, say $2,500, for high end solutions. And it’s like any other technology, those values will go down as the numbers go up.”

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