Field Tools Refined

How can scouts be more efficient and effective, whether walking or riding the acres they’re called to service? That’s the key question that David Krueger of AgRenaissance Software finds his crop consultant customers asking. They’re picking up additional acres to keep business going; “therefore, they have to work smarter. They’re looking for tools and ideas that will help them be more efficient in collecting field samples, scheduling and time management, data sharing, and data management,” he says.

For 20 years, Spectrum Technologies has been a major supplier of many “nitty gritty” measuring tools. The company specializes in ag weather stations and nutrient and soil moisture management equipment. Just this past fall, a redesigned Cardy Nitrate Meter made its debut — a possible boon in light of current concerns about nitrogen (N) prices and efficient N use. “As the plants develop, scouts can collect petioles, crush them in a garlic press, collect the sap, and then do tests to see how much N the plants are picking up,” says Cynthia Turski, integrated pest management specialist.

Other newer tools for this season are an array of light sensors and meters. Formerly used primarily in research, the units have come down in price and can give scouts a better idea of how much light is hitting plants. One unit, the 2475 PAR sensor, can measure the 400-700 nanometer wave range. Agronomists can then calculate the quantity (moles) per day a crop is receiving.

One red/far red light reflectance meter can measure the NDVI (Normalized Different Vegetation Index) of a crop — a number developed by the scientific community that relates to how much photosynthesis is going on in a plant, says Aaron Johnsen, green industry consultant with Spectrum. The data is especially helpful in determining if a plant is under nitrogen or drought stress. Johnsen says the meter has been used most in corn, but in January the firm will be releasing one for small grains.

Eric Lund, owner of Veris Technologies, announced that dealers can get better reads on soil pH with a key update on the Veris Mobile Sensor Platform (MSP), an on-the-go pH and EC sensing and mapping system. “A new metal pH electrode has improved the performance significantly, improving data quality and reducing operating costs significantly,” says Lund. “Our clients are busier than ever, with more acres lined up for mapping.”

Handheld Heaven

Handheld computers such as iPAQs and PDAs have become a major tool for scouts who need to log data on soil sampling and pests. The PocketRecon from AgRenaissance runs on a PDA. “It’s been completely rewritten so it’s faster and better and can communicate wireless to a server,” says Krueger. “More importantly, it can now be customized for retailers, chemical companies, seed companies, and anyone else that is looking for a field collection tool that will communicate wirelessly back to the company server.”

Brian Stark, Farm Works marketing manager, says many veteran scouts are looking for something more rugged than an iPAQ. His company has offered the TitanRT for three seasons. This tough computer — an American Society of Agricultural Engineers AE 50 award winner — features a huge 8.5-inch diagonal screen and allows scouts to use their existing GPS receiver along with the Farm Works “Mate” programs to perform a wide range of tasks in the field.

Stark touts Trimble’s Nomad as a “new handheld device that’s been a very hot commodity with scouts. It offers built-in GPS and a rocket-fast processor that utilizes Windows Mobile 6. The screen is the same size as an iPAQ (3.5-inch diagonal), but nothing comes close when comparing other small rugged computers.” Now available is a new broadband wireless modem for the Nomad that allows users to communicate from the field to office or other locations where Sprint cellular connectivity is available in the U.S.

SST Software has its own entry in this arena, the SST Field PC. Mark Waits, marketing manager, says this ultra-rugged and ultra-efficient pocket-sized PC is shockproof and waterproof — and can come with SST Stratus installed. “Sealed CF and SD card slots can accommodate a GPS receiver, extra data storage, wi-fi, or cellular modem cards,” he says.

Even conventional iPAQs can be improved, Stark says, with Farm Works’ new Site Mate program interface. “The new interface makes for easy, quick data entry by providing larger buttons and more map area for viewing information,” he says. Scouts can avoid using the iPAQ stylus and use fewer clicks to navigate the program.

Data Management

Scouting data management is a big topic for tool developers these days. Krueger says many consultants are currently saving time by e-mailing field scouting reports from the truck in the field to a grower — who can then receive it on his cell phone and call the retailer to place an order. “Data also has to be shared across different systems and between retailers, applicators, labs, etc.,” he says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

AgRenaissance Software LLC
Raleigh, NC
877-518-8030

ESRI
Redlands, CA
800-447-9778 

Farm Works Software
Hamilton, IN
800-225-2848

SST Development Group
Stillwater, OK
888-377-5334

Spectrum Technologies
Plainfield, IL
800-248-8873

Trimble
Sunnyvale, CA
408-481-8000

Veris Technologies
Salina, KS
785-825-197

Standardized data collection software is becoming more important to dealers, says Waits. “SST Summit and Stratus users can now ‘synchronize’ field data with any other Summit user with the click of a button,” he describes, so a grower and the service provider have full access to all historical data recorded on a farm.

“We’ve found that one of the biggest delays to having good records and maps is getting data from the field to the office. Too often we hear stories that people have a drawer full of data cards, USB drivers, or PDAs full of data,” says Stark. It often sits untapped because the user doesn’t have time to sit down and read it. Farm Works has released wireless programs called Farm Works Sync (for field data) and Farm Works Dispatch (for vehicle monitoring) that utilize a wireless system, typically cell services, to automatically transfer information from the field to the office.

Mark Bechdol, federal land and natural resources and agriculture lead with GIS specialist ESRI, says that in the next five to 10 years, cell phone-based GPS technology is going to be good enough to do serious scouting logging for growers and dealers. He describes how they could simply hit a field with an iPhone, make a voice recording of field notes on the phone, and tag it with the GPS location. “We’re going to have far more ability to collect data at any time, any place and it’s going to be pretty accurate,” he says. “But we’re going to have challenges in dealing with that amount of data — how do we process it, store it, and keep it secure?” Bechdol says ESRI has released its ArcGIS Mobile SDK (software development kit) that allows mobile field collection devices such as smartphones, Blackberry, iPhone, and Treo to do real-time editing of data with web browsers, “as if it were a mini GIS right there on your phone.”

A powerful “product” that service providers can offer their clients is real-time aggregate data reporting, says Waits. So many providers are collecting standardized data, why not pool it together in a decision support program? Participants in a data pool could remain anonymous but have access to query it or ask questions. “An example would be to map the movement of an insect or disease across a county, state, or regions in order to protect fields before the pest arrives,” explains Waits.

Leave a Reply

Software Stories

SoftwareBlending Software To Address Every Need Of Ag Retail
March 3, 2014
This year’s packages cover more facets of dealer businesses than ever. Read More
SoftwareNew Crop Scouting App Now Available For Ag Retailers
September 3, 2013
AgraScout is a data management and communications tool used by retailers, consultants, and others to track and report conditions in a particular farm location. Read More
SoftwareWinfield Launches New Mapping Capabilities For R7 Tool
August 29, 2013
Winfield has announced the addition of a Field Response Map and a Profitability Map for its R7 Tool at 2013 Farm Progress Show. Read More
SoftwareTrimble Launches Connected Farm Dashboard
August 29, 2013
The company claims its new dashboard enables better decision making by putting key data at growers’ fingertips. Read More

Top 100 Articles

CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechKaren Arthur Joins AgriThority As Seed Treatment Produc…
December 19, 2014
Prior to joining AgriThority, Arthur directed research and development programs, overseeing laboratory and field research, to build the Valent U.S.A. seed treatment portfolio. Read More
EquipmentJohn Deere To Sell Crop Insurance Business
December 19, 2014
Deere & Co. has reached a definitive agreement to sell its crop insurance business, subject to regulatory approval, to Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. of Iowa. Read More
Crop InputsNufarm Fills Regulatory VP Position
December 18, 2014
Nufarm announced today that Rob Schwehr has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Innovation & Regulatory Affairs for Nufarm Americas. Read More
Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More