Make Your Drill ISOBUS Compatible – for Sep. 6, 2010

A couple of decades ago, switching an implement from one tractor to another likely meant having to change the hydraulic quick couplers to match the brand of tractor, because of course each one had their own unique fitting. The ASABE (the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers) eventually settled on a standard coupler design, and all the major manufacturers adopted it.

Not too long ago, engineers recognized things are getting complicated again when it comes to switching tractors — using all modern air seeders along with various other implements requires mounting an electronic control monitor inside the cab. Because many manufacturers use their own proprietary system technology, each implement needs its own specific monitor.

To standardize things, ISOBUS has emerged as the new equivalent of the old quick-coupler initiative. One ISOBUS virtual terminal (monitor) mounted in a tractor will work with any compatible implement.


Now, some independent companies are starting to offer conversion kits for older implements. One of them is Saskatoon-based Agtron Enterprises. This company began offering a basic air seeder conversion kit in April. The company calls it ISOBUS-in-a-box, and it retails for $5,750. It includes shaft and bin sensors, work switches and an ECU (electronic control unit), which is compatible with ISOBUS virtual terminals.

Once the kit is installed on a drill, hooking up to a different ISOBUS-capable tractor is just a matter of plugging into a standard electrical connector.

Agtron’s ISOBUS-in-a-box package includes all the necessary wiring and sensors, except seed-flow sensors which have to be specified separately to match product delivery hose sizes on each drill. If necessary, the company can put together a unique combination of components and create a customized conversion package. “We can mix and match to meet anyone’s exact needs,” says Agtron’s Judy Cook.


With the addition of stainless steel seed-flow sensors, the standard package is also capable of monitoring product tank pressurization and will alert an operator to any product bridging above the meter.

Farmers can upgrade the system to include the company’s ART infra-red optical seed flow monitoring package. ART uses infrared optical seed flow sensors to count seeds passing by them and provide precise seeding rate information.

The optical sensors can be installed on a single product line at each splitter in the drill’s delivery system to provide an average seed count, or on every line leading to an opener for an exact readout.

ART can get producers very close to being able to control the exact number of seeds planted per square foot in the field.

The optical seed flow metering system is also available on its own, and it can be installed and used in parallel with a drill’s own independent control system, as long as a tractor is also equipped with an ISOBUS virtual terminal.


Adding a system like ISOBUS-in-a- box could allow farmers to take advantage of prescription input mapping, even with their older equipment. “What guys can do, depending on the type of drive system in their cart, is take their old drill, put our ISOBUS-in-a-box on it and have a full variable-rate drill,” says Billay.

The ISOBUS-in-a-box system comes as an assembled wiring harness that only needs to be installed. Anyone who is reasonably handy in the farm workshop should be able to do it.

Having standard ISOBUS control on all farm implements has one other advantage. It means operators only have to learn how to use one system, which can be a real benefit when training seasonal employees.

Updating an older drill offers producers the potential to use new agronomic techniques with existing equipment at a much lower cost than buying new, which is a particular advantage for smaller farmers who can’t afford the jump to new, cutting-edge drills.

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About the author


Scott Garvey

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



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