In 2008 engineers at the major manufacturers and a few other brands decided to work together to create a standard for tractor-implement digital compatibility. That led to the creation of the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF), which now has over 170 member companies and groups. The ultimate goal of that organization was to create a global standard for electronic communication between all tractor monitors and implement control systems.
Having a standard communications protocol eliminates the need for each implement to have its own, dedicated in-cab monitor. Instead, a single monitor is able to control all implements the tractor may drag behind it.
That AEF communications standard has become known as ISOBUS 11783. Machines that use it should all play nicely with each other — at least, that’s the theory.
Monitors and implement systems that use this electronic communications format are considered ISOBUS compatible. But so far not all so-called ISOBUS compatible systems seem to be working as advertised. Now, however, farmers can get some help when trying to determine whether or not they can count on ISOBUS compatibility before buying new equipment.
In April AEF announced the launch of a special website, designed to allow anyone to log in and determine the digital compatibility of tractor-implement combinations before they make buying decisions. Just find your tractor and the implement you want to put behind it in the website database and see if they’ll talk to each other. And if they will, find out what level of compatibility they will accommodate. The data there is based on actual testing done by the AEF, so it should be accurate.
All systems tested by AEF are in the database. So far not every manufacturer has been willing to fully open their systems to ISOBUS communication, choosing instead to keep some functions proprietary. That means some implements only offer full functionality when paired with their own brand’s monitor.
For farmers intending to by a new implement that requires an in-cab terminal — say a round baler — knowing ahead of time how compatible their existing tractor’s monitor is with that machine could be a real bonus. That information will help them decide whether or not they should poney up the extra cash for a dedicated monitor for the implement before they make a purchase decision.
Coinciding with this year’s Agritechnica show in Germany, AEF will begin allowing manufacturers who’ve proven their systems in an AEF test lab to display a certification label, signifying that the product has been tested by AEF and meets the ISOBUS compatibility standard.