Leica: Moving The Needle

Leica GeoSystems raised a lot of eyebrows back in 2007 when it released the mojoRTK guidance system. Long known worldwide as a leader in precision measurement technology for markets outside ag, its initial entry into the U.S. agriculture market was loaded with capabilities. In fact, mojoRTK proved to be ahead of its time for most end users, built to take advantage of tractors and equipment compatibility for which U.S. equipment was not quite ready.

Harlan Little joined the company earlier this year to guide it through a phase that could be described as Leica 2.0 — finding a place for the company’s technology in the U.S. market, and setting a course forward that will make its products more accessible and more attractive to the U.S. ag market. Little discussed Leica’s challenges and opportunities with CropLife® magazine.

Q. Talk about Leica’s philosophy upon entering the U.S. market.

Leica is a large, well financed company that certainly understands GPS. We have a world-wide business supplying products for positioning, surveying, land leveling and machine control, but we have not had much exposure to the ag market, particularly in the United States. In Australia and Europe, Leica is better known in agriculture.

I think Leica caught everyone’s attention when it broke out with a lower-cost steering system using the concept that all tractors will be automatic-steering ready in the near future. The game-changer will eventually come when manufacturers have steering-ready tractors, which will make adoption easier and more cost effective. Leica has been on the leading edge relative to where things are going with the technology, but we have not invested time and energy on what we feel will ultimately go away — the hydraulic kit. Our aim is to make sure the tractors that are automatic steering-ready will be able to reliably plug in and steer equipment, and make it available at a price that an operator can justify. Taking this approach has allowed us to really focus, but it has also hampered us a little because it has restricted where we can penetrate the marketplace.

Q. How are things changing now and in the future?

The original way we were structured was really an Internet business model, where someone could buy the system online, plug it into their steering-ready tractor and be ready to go. The marketplace was not ready for that approach — we realized that we needed to build a dealership-distribution model and have knowledgeable people who are available to answer questions and sell the products. While we have a product designed to be plug and play, selling without a local dealer goes against the norm of what is expected with technology equipment.

We are in the midst of expanding our sales force and finding dealerships interested in taking on Leica products. We have a number of key dealers out there, but we need more coverage. Farther into the future, once everybody has ISO CAN in place, we will be ready to plug and play and steer the tractor. So when ISO CAN becomes standard equipment, I think that will drive interest in our control products.

Q. Leica has been working a lot with CORS RTK networks – how it this coming along?

While at AGCO, I was working on telemetry, and now it is kind of fun to be on the side of the whole thing … Leica has been developing CORS (continuously operating reference station) networks for a couple of years, and while the technology hasn’t hit its maximum potential as a tracking and communications system yet, the connections are all there and the infrastructure is in place to develop a working system.

Leica is very much involved in working with state departments of transportation and some non-ag situations putting infrastructure in place that also will be able to be leveraged in the ag market. The use of existing RTK networks in a true network situation instead of a tower sending the signal that allows the user to move anywhere in the network and have coverage. From that standpoint and we are doing that, and while we may not have as broad a line of product offerings as others, what we do have definitely works.

Leica is a global leader in advancing reference network technology, and is working with state departments of transportation to install this type of infrastructure. While ag isn’t driving these installations, the ag market will certainly be able to leverage these investments. When using a signal from a true RTK network (as opposed to a single tower or a series of un-networked towers), the user can move anywhere in that network and have coverage. In fact, Leica has just announced its new SmartNet product that is an RTK network solution provided via cellular communication.

Q. Will Leica be looking to establish any development agreements or partnerships in the future?

In today’s world, our growth is really a double strategy. We have the brand name out there, but we are interested in partnering. I definitely think that instead of reinventing the wheel, we will look at how we can tie our technology into someone else’s, make both partners’ products better and really create some synergies. We see the maturation of the technology market and I think it only makes sense to try to do that.

Of course, we will still keep a keen eye on keeping a competitive edge — there has to be some give and take.

Q. Do you see any hidden challenges for technology in the years ahead?

The growth of RTK networks of all colors and shapes are rapidly filling in the areas that need access, but the issue I fear we may run into is data blackouts. More and more data is being processed via the cell system, so if the infrastructure does not keep up with the demand for wireless data transfer, we could see data blackouts occurring.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires Kansas-Based Cedar Ridge Supply
September 16, 2014
Cedar Ridge Supply will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More

Trending Articles

FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More

Latest News

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Crowd Tops 2013 Show
September 19, 2014
The 52nd annual Ohio State University Farm Science Review welcomed more than 130,000 farmers, industry professionals, FFA students and agricultural enthusiasts during the three-day event. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Approves Enlist Following Rigorous Review
September 18, 2014
Dow AgroSciences now awaits EPA registration of Enlist Duo herbicide, the companion herbicide to the Enlist traits, which is expected in the near future. Read More
BlendersYargus Appoints New Plant Manager
September 18, 2014
Steve Shaffer will direct and coordinate daily operations at the company’s Marshall, IL, manufacturing plant, where the Layco line of material handling equipment is produced. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires Kansas-Based Cedar Ridge Supply
September 16, 2014
Cedar Ridge Supply will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
StewardshipSecretary Vilsack Highlights Innovative Conservation Ef…
September 15, 2014
Nearly $16 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) will be awarded to 47 organizations to help develop cutting-edge ideas to accelerate innovation in private lands conservation. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Responds To Cargill Lawsuit
September 15, 2014
Syngenta believes that the lawsuit is without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Launches Mobile App
September 15, 2014
Smartphone and tablet users planning on attending the 2014 Farm Science Review can now download this year’s customized mobile application. Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Grower Sets Georgia Soybean Yield …
September 15, 2014
Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy's soybeans yielded an astonishing 110.66 bushels per acre, crushing the previous record of 82 bushels-per-acre. Read More
NIMITZ Treated vs Untreated pepper plant
InsecticidesNIMITZ Nematicide Approved By EPA
September 12, 2014
NIMITZ is a novel, non-fumigant nematicide with simplified application features, user safety and an active ingredient with a unique mode of action. Read More
InsecticidesMarrone Bio Innovations Receives Patent For Chromobacte…
September 11, 2014
The patent is the first step for MBI in developing a commercially viable product to inhibit infestations of corn rootworm larvae across America and other regions. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences: Keeping The Pipeline Stocked
September 11, 2014
Dow AgroSciences is embracing product diversity to drive the company’s future. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Is Official Partner Of New St. Paul Ballpark
September 10, 2014
The new ballpark in St. Paul, MN, officially became CHS Field with Twin Cities-based CHS Inc. revealed as the naming rights partner. Read More
EquipmentHagie Honors Farming Stewardship Leaders
September 10, 2014
The Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award recognizes Iowa farmers as environmental leaders that are committed to healthy soils and improved water quality. Read More
Precision AgPlantBeat: Your Plants’ Pulse In The Palm Of Your Han…
September 10, 2014
A new agronomic monitoring and recommendation service from Phytech could rewrite the book on real-time plant health status monitoring. Read More
StewardshipCCAs Making Headway With 4R Program In Lake Erie Wester…
September 9, 2014
Certified Crop Advisers are implementing the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program in Lake Erie's Western Basin to improve water quality. Read More
MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
Crop InputsFMC Announces Cheminova Takeover
September 8, 2014
FMC Corporation today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Cheminova, a wholly owned subsidiary of Auriga Industries. Read More