Indiana precision farming dealer uses customized RTV as a mobile sales tool.

Jack Zemlicka, Technology Editor

Some people mistake it for a flashy golf cart, but it’s really a useful precision farming sales tool.

A few years ago, Elite Ag Solutions, in Warren, Ind., purchased a Kubota RTV and retrofitted the vehicle with a variety of Trimble’s precision farming features, including swath control, variable rate application and auto-steer, to make it a mobile demonstration unit.

“It’s a great conversation-starter,” says Aaron Hacker, precision ag specialist with Elite Ag. “We got this vehicle to conveniently go through the set up and show guys how the precision technology works, so it gives us a little more of an advantage that way.”

While traditional iron dealerships may be able to use a tractor on its lot to give customers a hands-on demonstration of precision farming products, Elite Ag doesn’t have that luxury.

The store is situated in a relatively urban location and doesn’t sell farm equipment, other than Orthman Mfg. strip-till bars, as a compliment to its multiple lines of precision farming technology products.

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With the RTV, Hacker says he and the other precision farming salespeople at the store are able to give customers hands-on use of the technology on-site, and can also easily transport the vehicle to farm shows and field days.

“I think it makes people more comfortable, because it’s almost like sitting down in an office,” Hacker says. “You can have a private conversation, covering specifically what the customer wants. At a farm show, you can’t very easily climb into a tractor and drive it around, where as with this, we can drive it up and down the streets of a farm show and nobody has a problem with it.”

Being able to give customers a hands-on experience, rather than an in-store simulation on a display, has been something Elite Ag customers have appreciated, Hacker says.

“If it’s a display, you can’t actually put it on a product to see the nozzles kicking on and off or a rate coming back up on the screen,” he says. “You don’t see that on a simulator in a tent or in a booth. This allows them to see how it all works together.”

While the mobile unit provides a handy alternative to a simulated display, there was a cost to customizing the RTV.

Beyond spending $10,000 to $12,000 for the vehicle, Hacker says a substantial amount of time, effort and money went into equipping the Kubota with the precision technology.

“We gave it to our install guy and he got everything put together and figured out what hydraulic valves we needed to make it work, which took some time,” Hacker says. “We picked up a base sprayer kit from a local sprayer supplier and we put all of our components on it. The tank and the boom we bought and we mounted all of the valve components and the flow meters to make it work.”

After adding all of the precision features, Hacker joked that the cost of the electronics far exceeded what they paid to purchase the RTV.

But he says it’s been a worthwhile investment, as a sales tool, public relations product and a training station.

Recently, Elite Ag retrofitted a similar RTV unit with precision technology for students at Ivy Tech Community College in Kokomo, Ind., to gain practical experience.

“People recognize the fact that they worked with us to set it up, so it’s a good way to get our name out there,” Hacker says.

Plus, the RTV allows Hacker and his staff to test new firmware when it hits the market and get up to speed on the technology.

But the main benefit is on the sales side, as Hacker says the vehicle gives the dealership credibility when pitching the precision products.

“It’s hard to put a dollar value on exactly how much we’ve sold as a result of using the RTV,” he says. “But it’s certainly helped in sales and even support, showing customers how to set something up or configure things. It’s definitely paid for itself.”