A manger can log
into the website and find the
location of the tractor positioned on a Google map
Only a few years ago, having a connected farm meant there was an FM two-way radio connection between the house and the tractor. Today, however, things are considerably different. Recent announcements by manufacturers of precision farming technologies have taken the connected concept to an entirely new level.
Using cellular telephone service, Both Trimble Navigation and Raven Industries now offer systems capable of transferring GPS data directly from the field to the farm office.
Trimble’s EZ-Sync software allows for wireless data transfer. The EZ-Sync software, combined with the company’s EZ-Office suite, links the field to the office by transferring information such as planned and completed jobs, guidance lines, soil sampling and scouting maps, application maps and variable rate prescription maps wirelessly.
EZ-Sync transfers data to or from the Trimble AgGPS FmX integrated display when connected to a cellular modem. This means equipment operators can receive data as well as send it. The software is also compatible with Trimble handheld devices, such as the Juno SC or the Nomad.
“This secure data collection and transfer solution enhances field record keeping and reduces the chance of data being lost due to damaged media or human error,” says Erik Arvesen, vice president and general manager for Trimble’s agriculture division. And, he adds, custom operators can use the EZ-Sync and EZ-Office software link to speed up billing information for customers.
But when it comes to reliable cellular telephone service, more than a few producers have been frustrated by the inability of their phones to work reliably in fields. If a cell phone keeps dropping calls, what will happen to these GPS data transfer signals?
Ryan Molitar, of Raven Industries says poor signal strength is a common problem for producers all across North America, but it won’t have as much effect on equipment-based transmitters. He points to the design of Raven’s Slingshot system, which is designed to overcome that problem. “It’s an industrial grade field hub with two antennas on the tractor to maximize the signal,” he says. That makes it capable of working seamlessly in locations where low signal strength prevents hand-held cell phones from working.
Raven’s Slingshot RTK field hub is designed to work with any cellular service in North America. For an annual fee, producers get access to Slingshot’s corrected RTK signal for repeatable accuracy in the field, which is good anywhere within 30 miles of a cell tower. And it doesn’t require the line-of-sight signal other RTK systems do. “With Slingshot, there are no more line-of-sight issues,” says Molitar.
The hub also provides access to high-speed internet for mobile computers. Producers also get a private, secure data storage site they can access through an internet browser. They can transfer data to it from field GPS units and update it in “near real time.” A farm manager can then log onto the same site to check field progress or access any of the transferred information and download it to an office computer.
The field hub mounted in a tractor — or other farm machine — includes Ethernet and USB ports to link to other computers in the cab. Typically, the Ethernet port is for the GPS monitor, but that leaves the USB open to connect a laptop or notebook computer to, providing general satellite internet access.
Using the Slingshot connection, on-the-go changes to prescription maps is possible right from the farm office. Managers can even refer back to maps and work records from pervious seasons as a reference. Slingshot also offers vehicle tracking. A manger can log into the website and find the location of the tractor positioned on a Google map.
And if there is a problem with a Slingshot product, producers have access to online support from the company to diagnose it or walk operators though a problem.
Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews.
Contact him at [email protected]