AGCOMMAND Tracks Machine Operation

AGCO’s new AGCOMMAND vehicle tracking option is set to expand this year. The system, which was introduced to the public at the Agritechnica show in Germany last November as an option on combines, will expand to tractors and self-propelled application equipment this summer.

AGCOMMAND is one of many new systems available this year that relies on a cellular telephone link to convey information from the field to the farm office. Producers using the system get access to a internet site to transfer information to, view it and create efficiency reports. The data can be downloaded from the site to any computer.

With its current capabilities, AGCOMMAND collects GPS and machine performance data every 60 seconds. It can then plot that information on a field map. “We know if it is in transport, working, sitting and idling or if it’s off,” says Dave Swain, technical marketing specialist for AGCO. “It (AGCOMMAND) is all about managing up time.”

Other examples of what can be monitored include how close a machine is to finishing a job and whether it is in work or transport mode. It will also report when a machine is due for its next service.

AGCOMMAND organizes all the collected information and creates reports. In its current release format, it records whether a machine is on or off, idling, working or in headland or transport mode. Future releases will allow for tracking engine hours, fuel consumption, operator efficiency and field-specific machine information. It’s available on Challenger, Massey Ferguson, AGCO and Gleaner products.

ADDED EFFICIENCY

Swain says the system’s main benefit is its ability to increase efficiencies on the farm, because a manager can monitor how much time a field unit has to wait for support service like spray tender trucks or grain carts to unload a combine. With that information, it is easier to fine tune a farm’s field operations.

Farmers will also have the ability to allow a dealer to monitor some of the messages being sent from the machine by AGCOMMAND. “(A producer) would have the option of allowing his dealer to view some of the data collected,” says Swain.

Why let your dealer access equipment performance information? As the system’s functions evolve, it will soon be able to transfer more than just data relating to equipment efficiency. It will also monitor several machine functions and report mechanical problems as error messages.

In the future, the system will be configured to give it the optional capability to contact a dealer’s service department for reporting a mechanical problem; they could then automatically send out a repair technician, if a farmer has a previous arrangement for such a response. “With a notification, not only would the farmer be notified but the dealer as well. Depending on how they (a farmer and his dealer) have it set up, the service guy could go straight to the field,” says Swain.

DROPPED CALLS BUT NO DROPPED DATA

But with variable cell service across the prairies, how will that affect AGCOMMAND’s ability to transfer data? “You’ll still have those limitations,” says Swain. “But our system has a 40-hour hard drive, so you can run for 40 hours and not have a cell connection. It will record and once you have a cell connection, it will download the logged data. We’re making it as seamless for the operator as possible.”

And the system also has a built-in 40 hour battery. If a machine is stolen, the tracking feature will remain operational and an owner can track its location on a Google map embedded in the AGCO website.

Suggested retail price for AGCOMMAND now stands at US$2,500, which provides the current basic system and a three-year data plan. But AGCO hasn’t yet set a price for the expanded service package, including the additional features to be made available later. That is because the full extent of the high-end options hasn’t been firmly decided on, expect to see an announcement on that by late this fall, says Swain.

AGCOMMAND installation packages will be available for new tractors and field application units by this summer. However, it cannot be retrofitted onto older equipment. The system plugs into an ISOBUS system and mounts inside the control console, which also makes it almost invisible inside the cab.

As for the more distant future, is the company planning to expand AGCOMMAND’s capabilities even further? “A lot of it is going to depend on its adoption and what the needs are,” says Swain. That means farmer input will influence the direction AGCOMMAND takes in the long term.

Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews.

Contact him at [email protected]

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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