As precision farming dealers, how are you meeting the needs of your farm customers to integrate different brands of precision equipment on their machinery, and what could manufacturers do to help solve compatibility issues?
“It is very difficult to keep up with product compatibility even within one brand. I always try components here in the shop to make sure they communicate with each other before they are given to customers.
“In the case of multiple brand hookups, I will only do them with ample time between install date and the date needed, so if there are issues, we have time to solve them. I also do my research beforehand so I don't waste my time on something that has been proven to be incompatible.
“Many manufacturers claim things are compatible, but when installed, they do only 80% of functions properly. I like selling our products on competitive machines when it is a complete system. When it is a mix there are always some issues.
“If you have monitor brand ‘A’ running planter brand ‘B’ and something quits working, who's problem is it? Dealer personnel probably don’t know enough about both products, and how many competitive dealerships are willing to work hand-in-hand in a situation like this? In a lot of cases, they will blame other components and the farmer is left in the dark. As time goes by, because of customer demand, these components will work together flawlessly. Where we are now, I believe an extra monitor in the cab may solve more problems then it causes.”
— Darren Bald, Great Lakes New Holland,
“At this point it’s a little difficult to mix and match precision farming technology to different color machines unless you go with a standalone technology manufacturer like Trimble, Ag Leader, Raven, etc.
“To integrate our customers’ operations, we are taking more of a customized solutions approach for each operation. We have a lot of customers that have multicolored fleets and have accumulated a certain amount of precision farming products over the years. The equipment still works and they would like to continue to get use out of it with their new iron and not spend a fortune.
“So what we wind up doing is going out to a farm and looking at what the grower has for equipment and technology, and figure out what he is trying to do. With our knowledge of multiple platforms and generations of precision equipment, we come up with an affordable and effective solution. Every single deal tends to be just a little bit different.
“What manufacturers could do is use a common protocol on their equipment and controllers (ISO compliance is taking us there to an extent) so that everything is plug and play (receivers, displays, corrections etc.). I understand they want to have every customer be brand pure — and trust me most dealers want that too — but until that happens, or everyone is on a common platform, our jobs and those of parts personnel will become more complex and difficult and require ever more knowledge and training. This in turn will make it more difficult and more expensive to bring in specialists with any experience until we get a little more standardization allowing vocational and tech schools to build more of these things into their curriculum.”
— Name withheld by request
“We strive to meet as many needs as we can, so we feel it is important to go to all the necessary training from each company and make all those different product companies integrate as much as possible. But we’re also willing to say ‘no’ to a precision company if we think we’ll have to sacrifice our ability to support what we do sell. Precision farming companies can help the dealers mostly by remembering compatibility when developing new products. A good example of this would be more companies developing their systems to be compatible with tablets. Most customers like the idea of having a tablet in their tractor, which will work with all of their precision equipment. Many times it seems companies focus on blocking compatibility in order to force market share, but many times it just ends up hurting the dealer and customer.”
— Darin Kennelly, Birkey’s Farm Store Inc.,
Gibson City, Ill.
“I deal primarily with all Trimble products, so most of my involvement with other brands is limited. We’ve been successful in integrating the Raven sprayer controls with the Trimble products, but other than that, not that many problems. We are a Case IH equipment dealer and Trimble Water Management dealer and so we carry a wide range of products.”
— David Nelson, Hlavinka Equipment Company,
El Campo, Texas
“As a precision farming dealer we are required to know all brands of hardware regardless of the brand we sell. The compatibility between brands is a struggle to support because in a lot of cases, the only compatible components are the GPS units. As the ISO 11783 standard is more widely adopted, compatibility issues will improve. At Crop IMS, our first step when working with a new grower is we’ll take a complete inventory of the precision farming hardware on the farm. Then we’ll have the grower explain his or her goals for adding new hardware. We’ll make a recommendation for what current hardware can be used and what new hardware the grower needs to purchase to achieve their goals. Most of time we can use their current GPS receivers and occasionally their current displays for tillage tractors.”
— Jeremy Wilson, Crop IMS,
“Right now, that is a tough one. Each manufacturer has enough of different code that it is hard to intermingle. We try to work with a grower to determine what manufacturer is the best for him. We’ll try to examine what he wants to do in the future to see who offers the best fit. There are a few companies that allow you to use a monitor with VT capabilities and about any receiver you want.
“The adoption of ISOBUS will potentially solve this issue. However, to get full use of ISOBUS, the manufacturer has to allow their code to be read by others. Currently, some manufactures say they offer an ISO solution, yet they are not true ISO in that they hold back certain options that will only work with their equipment.”
— Derek Strunk, Altorfer Ag Products,