A few years ago, most tractor manufacturers began building mounting points into their cab designs for placing implement monitors. That made monitor installation a lot easier. The problem is with so many implements now using sophisticated electronic controls the number of different monitors on the farm has been growing.
That has made hooking up a tractor to an implement a time-consuming process. And if the tractor needs to be removed for an in-season repair, the replacement tractor — if there is one available — will need to have the implement’s electronic control monitor reinstalled in it.
That problem hasn’t gone unnoticed by manufacturers and engineering associations. Their answer has been to lay the groundwork for a one-system-fits-all solution. That one system is known as ISOBUS. But just exactly what is ISOBUS? “(It’s) the universal protocol for electronic communication between implements, tractors and computers,” reads the AEF’s official explanation.
AEF stands for the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation, the organization set up in 2008 to establish and administer ISOBUS standards — yes, there really is an association for everything!
And just like the now-standardized hydraulic system coupler design, ISOBUS systems use a standard nine-pin connector, so hooking up ISOBUS-compatible systems is truly plug and play. To confirm their new designs will run on each other’s systems, engineers have been holding annual “Plugfests,” where they get together and plug their systems into each other’s devices to make sure they will play nicely together.
RETROFITTING NOW AVAILABLE
Even though ISOBUS has been on the radar screen since 2001, many tractors with in-cab monitors built since then may still not be ISOBUS compatible. If your tractor and implements are more than a couple of years old, you may not be getting the plug-and-play advantage.
Retrofitting some equipment is now a possibility. TeeJet has announced they are offering an ISOBUS-compatible system for pull-type sprayers that can be retrofitted to older equipment. They introduced their new system at the National Farm Machinery show in Louisville, Kentucky, last month.
Why bother retrofitting tractors and equipment? “Farmers today will have a fleet of tractors, and if they have a virtual terminal in every one, it won’t matter what tractor is pulling the implement,” says Jim Shone, business manager for TeeJet. “In the past a lot of that hardware had to be moved from tractor to tractor. Now, it’s a plug-and-play operation, and they’re looking at the same screen. There is more familiarity with it.”
By the way, virtual terminal is the new terminology referring to an in-cab monitor that is ISOBUS compatible. “Virtual” refers to the fact the in-cab terminal is only a monitoring and input device. The electronic control unit (ECU), or the “brain” of the system, is located on the implement.
TeeJet offers their retro-fit system in either of two packages. For producers who already have a tractor equipped with an ISOBUS terminal, TeeJet’s basic kit includes a IC18 ISOBUS ECU, BoomPilot automatic boom section control module, a switch box and all the cable and connections necessary to operate on John Deere, Case New Holland or AGCO virtual terminals.
The IC18 Sprayer ECU is capable of multiple rate selection, section status and task control for prescription applications. The IC18 and BoomPilot can automatically control up to nine sprayer sections. Shone says the suggested retail price for this kit is about US$2,000.
ONE MONITOR, MANY IMPLEMENTS
The IC18 package allows producers to update the system on an older sprayer to make it work with an ISOBUS-compatible monitor in a newer tractor. “Growers want to leverage the investment in that virtual terminal as far as they can,” says Shone. “That includes being able to monitor a variety of implements from that one monitor.”
But if a farmer doesn’t have an ISOBUS-compatible monitor in the tractor, TeeJet also offers a complete package to update both the pull-type sprayer and tractor. The full update kit has a suggested retail price of about US$6,000.
The full package includes the company’s new Matrix 570VT interface, which features a 5.7-inch touch screen suitable for day and night viewing. It can also be used with ISOBUS-compatible ECUs on other implements in addition to the IC18 sprayer package. So it provides a full ISOBUS-compatible control system for any tractor.
“We’re fully committed to the ISOBUS standard and want to help as many growers as possible experience the benefits of it,” says Shone. As farm fleets become standardized on ISOBUS technology, producers will be looking for something to use all those other implement monitors for… boat anchors come to mind!
For more information on the TeeJet systems, check out www.teejet.com.
Scott Garvey is machinery editor with Grainews. Contact him at [email protected]