Nick Viney is a veteran user of precision farming technology on his 1,400 acre corn, soybean, rye and alfalfa operation near Evansville, Wis. But his experiences haven’t always been without hassle.

In 2008, he started with an AutoTrac Universal 200 steering kit on his John Deere 8110 tractor. Viney liked the hands-free steering, but found he had difficulty maneuvering around the steering unit in the cab.  His next tractor had integrated auto-steering valves that worked with his GreenStar 2630 controller that relied on a subscription RTK signal from his John Deere dealer. The John Deere 1790 planter was set up with swath control and variable-rate population.

On his Hagie STS 12 self-propelled sprayer and the combine, he uses a cellular-based RTK signal with an Ag Leader Integra unit that he also uses on his Lexion 730  combine.

“We’ve set up the combine with swath control so we can get better yield accuracy,” he says. “The combine uses an 8-row Deere corn head for steering and we manually turn at end rows and then use the feelers to follow corn rows. However, we do use the RTK signal for steering in soybeans.”

Viney has had little trouble working across two systems, but would prefer they used a more common operating interface. “I’m a younger guy, so this isn’t as much of an issue for me, but it can be confusing,” he says.

To adapt the Hagie sprayer for auto-steer and swath control, Viney had to add an interface between the Integra unit and the sprayer controls. “Using the Integra unit with the combine was a simple plug-and-play installation, but the sprayer required an extra controller that added a couple thousand dollars to the price of the system.”

Plus, the controller is another box in the cab that takes up space, Viney says.  “I didn’t like having to spend extra money to get something that already cost quite a bit to get to work,” he says.

Point of Pain: My Data Should Remain My Data

Viney is a firm believer in collecting and using farm data to improve decision-making on his farm. He appreciates the ability to do replicated field trials on his own farm, to improve efficiency year to year.

However, he has some strong opinions on precision data ownership. Viney says he’s less than eager to share his data with outside companies who want to turn around and charge him another $10 or $20 an acre for variable-rate seeding and fertilizer prescriptions.

“First, I don’t want anyone sharing my yield data with others,” he says. “It’s no one’s business but my own what my crops are yielding. When companies charge between $200 and $300 a bag for seed and then ask for more fees per acre for information, I think there is something wrong with their business model.”