Vibrant Visual Guidance

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GPS guidance product sales are remaining strong, thanks to technology’s promise of a speedy return on investment and input savings. Dave King, marketing manager, Ag Leader, would add other benefits: “The adoption rate continues to grow as guidance helps applicators be more efficient, allows them to work at night, and reduces stress.”

While there’s no official industry reporting on guidance system sales, Kayla Reynolds, product marketing manager at John Deere, has seen a “heavy uptake” in purchases over the last few years, both in manual and automatic steering units. In just the last few months, Leica has signed on many value-added guidance resellers — equipment dealers and ag suppliers alike, says Christina Roth, marketing and communications manager.

Companies continue to introduce and tweak systems for all levels of work. This month, CropLife focuses on visual (or manual) guidance products, and in June, we’ll cover automated steering lines.

Displays For All Tastes

Guidance companies are offering more screen options than ever. Reynolds says Deere’s “Cadillac” of displays is the GreenStar 2 2600 Display, now standard equipment in every 4000-Series sprayer shipped. The color touchscreen measures a little over 10 inches and comes standard with manual guidance, coverage maps, documentation, and prescriptions. An AutoTrac-ready kit is built in, making it simple to add an automatic guidance system.

The GreenStar 2 line can now be used — with the addition of a GreenStar rate controller — to vary anhydrous ammonia rates. “It’s something everybody’s starting to dabble in, using GPS to control the on-off of anhydrous,” says Reynolds. In fact, the GS2 System can handle four inputs at one time, controlling seed, liquid, and gas while simultaneously controlling implement sections with GreenStar Swath Control Pro.

Leica just launched the Leica iNEX mapping and guidance display. This new full-color touchscreen is compatible with most GPS receivers and rate controllers. It comes with standard guidance options, unlimited line storage, and multiple field views. “Software upgrades allow users to customize the display’s functionality to fit their individual needs,” says Roth.

Just introduced in February, Outback STS from Hemisphere GPS combines the most popular features of the Outback S2 with a 7-inch, high-resolution color touchscreen that offers excellent situational awareness. The unit includes Hemisphere GPS’s patented Crescent Technology that provides industry-leading satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS/WAAS) performance, says Jeff Farrar, channel marketing manager.

Upgradability in displays continues to be popular with operators. Many units can easily add features such as automatic boom control, automatic section control, and automatic steering. For instance, Raven’s Cruizer integrates with SmartBoom and SmartRow easily, says Ryan Molitor, marketing supervisor. These features control section shut-offs for both sprayers and planter. “Applicators need this technology to ensure they are not overlapping or skipping — this is especially important when using guidance and data logging,” he believes. “Being able to hand the customer a map of his field that can prove they sprayed only where they needed to, and didn’t skip, is critical.”

The AutoFarm ATC (Ag Technology Center) offers a realistic “virtual highway” look on its display, making visual guidance “as easy and intuitive as driving your car down the road.” The “Center” part of the system’s name means the users can do other tasks besides guidance, including where-applied mapping and field recordkeeping. The unit can also integrate with popular rate controllers and show individual boom sections’ shut-off and coverage.

Trimble’s newest product is the AgGPS FmX Integrated Display, which replaces the Trimble Field Manager Display. “It includes two integrated GPS+GLONASS receivers for the latest GNSS technology,” says Wayne Wenzel, public relations manager. This allows the unit to do guidance for a tractor and an implement behind it. “A 12.1-inch color touchscreen with plain and 3D views is 35% larger than the industry standard 10.4-inch screen,” he notes. The unit supports a host of signal choices and optional capabilities.

Trimble has focused on “future proof” technology, says Wenzel, “which means the equipment is designed to be upgradable so farmers and custom applicators don’t have to worry so much about their equipment becoming obsolete soon after they buy it.” He adds that Trimble is “color-blind and brand-neutral,” so the company’s equipment can be added to almost any existing farm equipment.

TeeJet’s new CenterLine 230BP combines simple guidance with automatic boom section control. It has all the features of the company’s entry-level CenterLine 220 (which has a new low MSRP price) plus headland and adaptive curve modes and applied area counter display. It also works with most spray controllers.

Bright Lightbars

While displays continue to do more, “we think there is still a pretty big market for lightbars,” says Deere’s Reynolds. Indeed, Deere has typically focused on more advanced solutions, targeting the automatic guidance market, but “now we’ve come back around and we’ve seen an opportunity to fill out our line-up, to offer an entry-level system also,” she explains. Enter the GreenStar Lightbar, new this season. It can be teamed with any Deere receiver, but customers are mainly pairing it with the new StarFire 300. “It’s a price fighter because when you put these two products together, you can benefit from manual guidance for $1,400. It’s a fairly inexpensive system that you can put on any machine — it doesn’t care the color,” says Reynolds.

Topcon Positioning Systems’ new System 110 combines GPS lightbar guidance with a simple screen set-up. Its detachable lightbar can be placed anywhere in the cab for optimum viewing, says Tom Causey, ag & OEM advertising manager.

The AgGPS EZ-Guide 250 and AgGPS EZ-Guide 500 Lightbar Guidance Systems from Trimble use a color display to aid manual guidance. The EZ-Guide 250′s 4.3-inch screen contains 15 bright guidance LEDs for quick on-line visual feedback, while the EZ-Guide 500′s 7-inch screen boasts 31 highly visible LEDs. At different price points, the units are targeted for different needs, with the EZ-Guide 500 offering accuracy and application control upgradability.

Heacox is a Contributing Editor for the CropLife Media Group, which includes CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines, and the PrecisionAg Special Reports.

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