Farmer Iron

Frustrations in Precision

As more farmers move to these systems, frustrations abound.

Recently, I got a great opportunity to sit in on a presentation by three top farmers at the Farm Futures Management Summit. Each was talking about how they're using precision farming in their operations - from top end RTK systems to WAAS-based economical approaches, it was a great range of information for those on hand.

One thing shined through, however, and it's an issue that I'm hoping our industry friends continue to work on: Compatibility. While I know that competition is a good thing, farmers that don't lock themselves down to a single provider are finding it pretty crowded in the cab.

One example, in this side conversation, included a producer who had one controller for mapping, another for spraying and got a newer planter and needed a separate system for that. Yep, that's three different screens in the cab, with their own wiring harnesses. And guess what? The controller for the planter was only needed because the newest piece of equipment could not be controlled (it could be monitored and managed, just not folded up) from a third-party system.

For a lot of you, I'm preaching to the choir. For those of you updating systems, this is an issue to consider. As new standards - like ISOBUS - come forward, this equipment will play better together. For now, however, you're dealing with competing standards and if you're adding new "stuff" consider how you'll run it in the field.

Third party controller makers struggle with this all the time and they work hard to set up alliances with original equipment makers. OEM's on the other hand don't have a lot of incentive to be compatible, and I don't blame them. Locking you into a one-color solution means more sales for them.

As you look at new tools going into this season, be sure to ask those questions about how the product operates and what controllers can work with the implement. Display proliferation is a continued concern as racks of equipment seem to find their way into the cab. The day will come when a single display may do all the controlling for whatever implement you use, but it's not here yet.

Then we'll probably deal with problem #2 - the screen isn't big enough. Not sure we're ready for 19-inch monitors (or bigger) but with wider Web access, that monitor could do a lot more than manage your planter.

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