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 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
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
corn field
CropLife 100The Andersons’ Humic DG Now Available In Canada
February 13, 2015
The Andersons, Inc. Turf & Specialty Group has announced its Humic DG product is now available to customers in the Canadian turf, agriculture and horticulture markets. Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsCommodity Classic 2015 Sets Attendance High Mark
March 4, 2015
With nearly 8,000 total attendees, the 2015 Commodity Classic convention and trade show, which took place last week in Phoenix, AZ, shattered previous records for the landmark event, Read More
Young corn plants
FertilizerNew Nitrogen Stabilizer From Simplot Protects Fertilize…
March 4, 2015
By using OmniPierce Technology, Eclipse-N from Simplot Grower Solutions coats and protects more nitrogen, increasing nitrogen efficiency and decreasing loss due to volatilization. Read More
Industry NewsOhio Corn And Wheat Growers Association, Ohio Soybean A…
March 4, 2015
The associations truly appreciate the comprehensive approach and diligent work that the Ohio House of Representatives has dedicated to addressing water quality and House Bill 61. Read More
Mahindra Implement
Industry NewsMahindra USA Aligns With Paladin Attachment For Impleme…
March 4, 2015
Mahindra USA will begin utilizing Paladin Attachments as its implement supplier in April 2015. Read More
Crop InputsValent BioSciences Acquires Mycorrhizal Applications
March 4, 2015
The acquisition adds another strategic platform to VBC’s rapidly expanding global biorational business, providing additional tools for the Biorational Window platform being developed with its parent, Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation - Plant Nutrient on the Farm Station
Industry NewsNutrients For Life Foundation Launches New Station Prog…
March 4, 2015
This ready-to-implement station provides an interactive opportunity for farms to showcase crop nutrients’ important role in growing healthy crops. Read More
Adjuvants loading
AdjuvantsAdjuvants Continue Upward Trend
March 4, 2015
A dizzying array of developments in crop protection technologies promise to make specialty adjuvants a crucial piece of the puzzle going forward. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Me…
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
10 Tips for Spring Planter Preparation
Equipment10 Tips For Spring Planter Preparation
March 3, 2015
Kinze Manufacturing offers advice on how to ensure your planter is ready before you hit the field. Read More
Industry NewsOABA 2015 LAUNCH Program Recognizes 20 New Graduates
March 3, 2015
Twenty Ohio agribusiness leaders are being recognized as the latest graduates of Ohio AgriBusiness Association’s LAUNCH program. Read More
EquipmentNew AGCO Website Helps Customers Shop For Certified Pre…
March 3, 2015
RoGator sprayers are among the wide range of CPO equipment available through AGCO's site. Read More
Enlist spray Demo
HerbicidesGuiding New Herbicide Systems’ Launches
March 3, 2015
Under careful watch, the new 2,4-D- and dicamba-tolerant crops hit more acres this season. Read More
Eric SfiligojCommodity Classic 2015: Playing The Waiting Game
March 2, 2015
There was plenty of future-talk at this year’s event as companies (and growers) are largely in a holding pattern of sorts. Read More
Industry NewsHighway Equipment Appoints New Director Of Business Dev…
March 2, 2015
Cory Venable, who joined Highway Equipment Company (HECO) in 2013 as OEM Account Manager, has been promoted to Director of Business Development. Read More
Prairieland FS employees
Eric SfiligojWorkforce Worries
March 2, 2015
Finding good employees almost always ranks as the No. 1 or No. 2 problem for ag retailers in our annual CropLife 100 survey. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location I…
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More