Visual guidance systems have long changed the way growers manage their fields, and updates to the premium systems already available are taking their users in new directions with expanded options. For example, the new weather-resistant Raven Cruizer, due out this spring, can be used on a four-wheeler or tractor with an open cab. “A version that’s tolerant to drizzle or rain was a big request from our customers,” says Paul Welbig, business development director for Raven’s Ag Division.
Rolling Out The Changes
Water-resistance isn’t Raven’s only new offering this season; the company also provides wireless connectivity to the field with Slingshot, which works with EnvizioPRO and ViperPRO displays. “You can get on the internet, or send files from the cab of the tractor to the office or vice versa,” says Welbig. “If you’re having trouble in the field, your technician can see your screen from their office.” Adds Welbig: “The good news for customers is that if you’ve already invested in one of our field computers over the last few years, this adds an incredible new capability to those, and you don’t have to buy another display.”
John Deere is also updating its premium display; the GreenStar 2600 now has the ability to convert prescription shape files. “Customers have been asking for it, especially ag service providers,” says Jake Stien, product manager, displays. “The ability to bring in a prescription shape file from a third-party desktop software program and then basically convert that to a format the 2600 can use is very important.”
Manufacturers are listening to growers, and many of the new products and updates reflect that. “To meet grower demands, we’ve recently introduced a new guidance system, Matrix, and integrated the Matrix interface into our FieldPilot assisted-steering system,” says TeeJet Technologies Vice President, Guidance Business Manager Rich Gould. “What sets Matrix apart from all other guidance devices is RealView Guidance Over Video,” Gould explains. “RealView allows operators to see guidance information displayed over an actual image of the field rather than a virtual image.” Up to four cameras can be used with the system to view and monitor hard-to-see implement operations. Later in 2010, TeeJet will release Matrix 840G with an 8.4-inch display, all the features of the Matrix 570G, and the ability to connect up to eight RealView cameras.
For a cleaner cab, Ag Leader has added guidance, steering, and boom height control to its EDGE display to eliminate redundant controllers. “The latest firmware for the EDGE display has a built-in, full-featured guidance system including an on-screen lightbar showing cross-track error and pass number,” says Jessica Reis, marketing communications specialist. The L160 companion lightbar can be mounted on the windshield or dash, allowing for a view of guidance in front and enabling operators to see cross-track error, pass number, and degree heading, Reis says.
Creating even more cab room is the mojoMINI with a 4-inch color touch screen from Leica Geosystems. A plug-and-play manual guidance product, the mojoMINI includes a street navigation function, so the user can simply pull the screen from the tractor and stick it to their vehicle’s window for on-road navigation. The mojoMINI comes with a SmartAg antenna with a magnetic mount, and wireless communication with the display via BlueTooth.
Investment Pays Off
“In these economic times, people want to hang on to what they’ve got and make them better,” says Welbig, which is why Raven’s displays are scalable. “You can make a modest investment now and continue to build on that investment later with all these other capabilities,” Welbig explains.
Following that trend of making existing units customizable for the end user is a new Leica display with high-quality, three-dimensional graphics. “The mojo3D provides guidance and a range of customized controls via option packs so users can add other functions such as single- or multi-section control,” says Harlan Little, North American business manager, Leica Geosystems Ag Solutions. With a standard base of features and a series of upgrade options, producers only have to purchase the functionality they need, Little says. Available later this spring, the mojo3D has a 7-inch color touch-screen display, an integrated GPS receiver, and offers multiple viewer perspectives and an icon-based menu structure that allows users to change settings without leaving the main navigation screen.
Even with the introduction of new products to the market, Little says 2010 sales on existing products are likely be even with 2009. “We continue to see interest in guidance products that give the user the ability to upgrade to better accuracies once they have gained confidence that there is a return in using them,” Little says. “This desire to leverage their initial investment while increasing accuracy is why we can start a user with our mojoGLIDE console, and then help them upgrade over time to RTK by remotely unlocking the unit’s built-in RTK potential using our Virtual Wrench service.”
This payoff on an initial investment is keeping customer requests coming, and manufacturers responding. “Growers continue to evaluate the ability of any technology to deliver a payback to their farming operations,” says Gould. TeeJet is doing its part to provide growers with plenty of options. “Automatic boom section control and assisted steering have been designed into Matrix,” Gould says. “This makes it extremely easy and affordable for growers to add these capabilities to the Matrix.”
“With the new Farm Bill offering incentives for precision farming, now is the time to invest for both those growers looking to upgrade from older lightbar technologies or those purchasing their first guidance product. Now that the cost of these systems can be quickly recouped through efficiency gains, growers are willing to make the investment,” says Gould.