With seeding equipment as large and complex as it is, using remote cameras to monitor critical systems has become one of the most efficient ways to ensure everything is functioning as it should. Waiting until a refill stop to find a problem could mean leaving a lot of unseeded strips. Reseeding them is a real headache.
Until now SeedMaster has been offering buyers of its drills add-on camera packages from other manufacturers. But the company recently decided to introduce its own in-house system. According to Owen Kinch, SeedMaster’s research farm manager, the company wasn’t entirely satisfied with the quality of available camera systems.
“We’ve been selling camera systems for 10 years now, and we’ve never really been happy with what’s on the market,” he explains. “So about a year and a half ago, we set off on a mission to find something better. But we couldn’t, so we started from the ground up and developed our own system from scratch.”
That led to the creation of the new SeedMaster Axis Tablet, which offers a camera system and a whole lot more.
A complete Axis Tablet package, which retails for about $3,000, includes a Windows based 8-inch tablet, cabling, Ram mount, chargers, USB adapter and five wireless video cameras — although it’s capable of handling as many as eight.
“It’s a mobile device that is going to compliment our in-cab air seeder controls,” Kinch adds. “It’s a tool for farmers, custom designed for us with the end user in mind. It’s a Windows device, so you can transfer whatever types of files you want. You could run a PowerPoint presentation off this device if you want to.”
The Axis won’t replace SeedMaster’s Raven-based drill controller. Instead, it’s meant to be a separate monitor, handling the view from those remote cameras as well as offering additional features. When linked to the internet via Raven Slingshot’s hot spot wi-fi capability (or any other device), users can take advantage of other Axis programs, which include requesting a direct link with the factory to aid in diagnosing problems.
“From the office I can remote into the tablet and take control of the screen if a grower is having trouble,” Kinch says. “He can be videoing with the camera and I can be remoted-in watching it and helping him troubleshoot at the same time. He’ll be showing video and talking and I’ll be listening as well in real time. Anything we can do to streamline and speed up that (technical) support is just as important for us.”
The Axis screen offers the highest resolution of any commercially available camera system designed for the ag market, according to Kinch.
“The one big difference is we’re able to display a high definition picture, 1280 x 720 lines of resolution. The picture quality is about two and a half times better than what else is on the market today. Everything else is standard resolution, 720 x 480, at best. Right now we have an eight-inch screen. By Farm Progress Show or sooner we’re going to have a bigger, 10-inch version available.”
The Axis tablet comes with a 32 gigabyte memory and additional eight gigabyte memory card, so there is ample memory capacity. It will come with an Internet link to all SeedMaster product manuals, giving producers technical information right in the field.
Once seeding is finished, the Axis cameras and tablet can be transferred to any piece of farm equipment, which will allow growers to get even more use out their investment.
“It’s all very high-quality wiring with Deutsch connectors,” Kinch explains.” We supply all the harness necessary to run power from your tractor. But depending on the situation, guys can rob 12 volt power from anywhere. They use very little power. It’s about 0.4 amps per camera in infrared, maximum camera draw. For a five-camera system you’re looking at two amps of power draw. If they own a SeedMaster drill there’s a connection on the toolbar that’s made for it.”
SeedMaster to expand digital features for 2017
Last year during SeedMaster’s annual field day at the company research farm, staff announced they were working on increasing the compatibility of their drills with standard ISOBUS virtual terminals. That eliminates the need to have a second dedicated monitor in the cab. This year at the SeedMaster display at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon, Owen Kinch, research farm manager, said that work is continuing.
“We’re really focusing on ISO for in-the-cab meter control,” he said. “We’re expanding on that offering this upcoming year. Raven has a new platform for us this upcoming year and it’s going to incorporate five-product control. We’re not going to be losing any of the feature set we’re selling. We’ll actually be adding in extra features.”
“This coming year it’ll be 100 per cent complete ISO with additional features that aren’t on the market today. We’ll be showing it at Farm Progress (in Regina in June).”
In addition to that enhanced ISOBUS compatibility, the company will continue to expand the features on its Axis Tablet system, which will eventually allow operators to control some systems on seed carts.
“For the next serial number year, beginning in September, guys are going to get the tablet as a standard feature when they buy a tank unit,” says Kinch. “It will include the Smart Fill feature, so the grower will be able to move the conveyor around with the tablet. And there’ll be additional features that aren’t on the conveyor today. We’ll be able to control the belt speed. It’ll control the lights and the kick out of the conveyor. And we’re working on a feature — it doesn’t have a name yet — that will start a sequence that moves the conveyor to a pre-fill position. It’ll definitely save him (the farmer) a bit of time.
R&D staff are also developing software that will allow the Axis Tablet to control unloading gates on a grain truck when filling a SeedMaster cart.
“The other things were working on is taking control of the truck gates,” he adds. “On a tandem or a trailer, opening and closing those gates based on the load of the conveyor. It will fill a tank to a predefined weight and shut off automatically.
“When it comes to the tandem, we’re also controlling the tilt of the box. It will maintain the (grain) level just above the gate. If it senses a dangerous side angle, we’re going to lower it to help prevent tipping.”