Here’s the “Top 4 Tech Trends” editors found impacting the North American precision farming market. For more on what editors saw, heard and experienced in Louisville, visit Precision Farming Dealer’s Facebook and Twitter pages. More coverage will also be shared in video on www.PrecisionFarmingDealer.com.
Case IH to Test Drive its Autonomous Platform
After debuting its autonomous concept vehicle in 2016, Case IH created some of the loudest precision farming buzz in Louisville, unveiling the next steps in its plan for taking driverless vehicles in ag from concept to reality. Leo Bose, Advanced Farming Systems marketing manager, announced a partnership with California vegetable producer Bolthouse Farms to run supervised autonomous tractors for disking and ripping this year.
The pilot project will include multiple tractors in the field, with one operator and is part of the Case IH’s process for achieving full autonomy. Coinciding with the pilot project news was the launch of the AFS Soil Command system for the Tiger-Mate 255 field cultivator at the show. The technology is the first seedbed quality monitoring system brought to market and comes factory-installed, according to Chris Lursen, tillage marketing manager.
Perception vs. Reality of Agricultural Machine Learning
The AETC conference featured several discussions on the opportunities and obstacles associated with artificial intelligence (AI) in ag equipment. Part of the process involves developing perception technologies which are based on modeling out real world scenarios to develop reliable, repeatable results. Darcy Cook with engineering and software development firm JCA Electronics, notes that the ag industry has 3 core challenges to commercializing AI — object detection, object recognition and perception use in guidance systems for autonomy. But he also says there are pathways to progress including early prototyping, a systems approach, rather than a singular solution and developing technology to solve the problems, not the other way around.
Putting ROI to Work
Talking with attending dealers during the week, it’s always an opportunity to take their temperature on early year objectives. The prevailing outlook appears to be positive from a revenue standpoint (and preliminary analysis of our 2018 benchmark study reveals nearly one-third of dealers project revenue increases of more than 8% this year). Still, proving return on investment is top of mind for many dealers. Visiting with Kevin Kelley, co-owner of Kelley Engineering in Brookston, Ind., he walked us through the dealership’s development of ROI tools to clearly show precision payback to customers.
One example he had was a flyer he drafted for Hiniker’s Nitro-Lert anhydrous knife monitor that outlines a scenario for a customer to recoup their investment in the system. The “assumptions” include a 30-foot, three-point toolbar, 1 plugged knife, $3.50 per bushel corn and a 50 bushel loss per one acre of row. Kelley’s calculations indicate it would take less than 173 acres to pay for the system.
“The customer might hear the initial cost is about $2,700 and there might be a little hesitation, but if we can show them how quick the payback is if they have a plugged knife or partially plugged manifold, that usually convinces them this is a worthwhile investment,” he says.
Kinze Launches Electronics Division, New Planter Technology
Following the industry splash Kinze Mfg., made with its entry into the tillage market with its new Mach-Till high-speed disc (licensed from Degelman Industries), the company introduced its new Electronics Division that was created in North Liberty, Iowa. In Louisville, Kinze debuted its Blue Vantage 12-inch mobile touchscreen display, designed to be a “hitch-pin” solution, straight out of the box, along with its Blue Drive electric drive with no chains, drive shafts, clutches or gearboxes to reduce maintenance and repairs.
Both platforms will be field tested on customer farms in 2018 on Kinze’s 3660 and 4900 planters, and will be available on these planter models for the 2019 planting season, says Susanne Veatch, Kinze president and chief marketing officer.