Grainews has reported in the past on boom control systems that turn off sections of the boom as they cross over parts of the field that has already been sprayed. Booms are divided into five or seven sections, for example. While this is a major advancement in automation and reduced overlap, Harrison Ag Technologies of Mobridge, South Dakota takes this a step further. Its Smart Nozzle automatically controls each nozzle individually.
Smart Nozzle uses existing GPS and solenoid technologies to turn each nozzle on and off depending on the sprayer’s position in the field. The system has three main parts. First is the AIM solenoid, which attaches directly to the cluster of nozzles that are found on the booms of today’s high clearance sprayers. It only takes up one nozzle spot, so if you have a five-nozzle cluster, for example, you still have room for four nozzle sizes. The AIM solenoid is supplied stock on the Case IH Patriot high clearance sprayer system and is easy to install on any other boom system.
The second part is a CAN wiring network to reduce wiring to the main controller. This controller can shut each nozzle on or off. The controller receives information from the sprayer’s GPS system so it can properly create an electronic map of the field you are spraying. It also creates a graphical model that shows up on the monitor so the operator can make sure he did not miss any areas on the field. This mapping is what the Smart Nozzle system uses to turn each nozzle on and off to minimize overlap to a near zero level. If the system detects you have sprayed over a spot then it will shut the nozzles that are overlapping that area. It does not matter if you are dealing with headland passes or going around rock piles.
This helps take even more thinking out of your spraying operations because an operator does not have to turn his booms on and off over headlands or any or type of situation. A field can be entered and once the booms are turned on and the Smart Nozzle system is on, it will not allow the sprayer to overlap were you have all ready sprayed.
USE IT TO TEST NOZZLES
The main controller is also hand held, so you can use it outside the cab. That way, you can walk behind a machine and check each nozzle individually saving the water that is sometimes wasted during nozzle checks. For myself, this option would save me a couple thousand gallons of fresh water a year since I like to check my nozzles plenty of times. With larger groupings, a partially plugged nozzle in the middle can allow plenty of gallons to be lost in the nozzles around it.
COSTS AND RESULTS
When making any large-scale modifications to equipment, you need to understand its costs and benefits. Sometimes the economic payoff is not cut and dried because we have so many intangible variables in farming that can be hard to measure. Cost for the Smart Nozzle system varies depending on size and make of the sprayer. For Case IH Patriot sprayers that already have the AIM technology in them, a Smart Nozzle system for a 90-foot boom would be US$5,400. If you need to buy AIM solenoids for a 90-foot boom, the overall system installed would be around US$15,000. That’s if you install if yourself. Add shop costs if you hire someone to do it.
The big question, as always, is whether this capital cost is worth the benefits that are received. Statistically speaking, the Smart Nozzle system will save you money. How much depends on the type of fields you are in, the type of chemical you are using and of course how much water costs. In average conditions in fields with minimal obstacles, this system has shown savings of 10 per cent in product output. This increases with the amount of obstacles, and can be as high as 25 per cent, depending on how much turning is occurring in a given field.
And because the nozzles turn off and on as needed, you can concentrate on driving around the obstacles and not on whether your boom is on or off. When driving around the obstacles, you don’t have to worry about overlapping too much or missing a piece of the field.
Even if your savings are at the low end — 10 per cent — that’s $5,000 on a chemical bill of $50,000. Those savings do not include the intangible variables that are involved with overlap. An operator with this system can comfortably spray chemicals that are a little harsher in crop without any worry. An example would be broadleaf chemical in field peas where it is fairly easy to stunt the growth slightly with overlap around headlands or obstacle areas. Also there would be little worry
about nitrogen burn if applying liquid fertilizer in crop. These types of variables are hard to measure in an exact figure but the Smart Nozzle system takes the worry out of these situations since the overlap with this system is almost zero.
The Harrison Smart Nozzle is definitely a way to cut down on the chemical bill even farther. The high cost may be a deterrent for some, but this system could be used for many years and be transferred between sprayers when that piece of machinery is upgraded on the farm. In the long run, it will keep on saving the same way a GPS and auto-steer do. It just makes your high clearance sprayer that much more accurate in reducing overlap.
Jay Peterson farms near Frontier, Sask. He graduated from University of Saskatchewan in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness.