Every day, farm tractors and implements are connected together and the electrical connectors are engaged. In the cab, the terminal comes alive with information about all the connected systems.

Very interesting technology, but how does it all happen? And when the tractor and implement are different colors, how are systems coordinated to work together?

An organization created out of the Ag industry has been instrumental in improving these communication systems. The organization is the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF).

The History of the AEF

During the mid 2000’s, the global standard ISO 11783 was released, more commonly referred to as ISOBUS. It is a communication protocol for the agriculture industry developed to standardize the communication systems on Ag equipment.

However, the standard had over a thousand pages, and each manufacturer interpreted the standard differently causing continued issues.

In 2008, seven manufacturers and two associations came together with a goal to work openly together to provide answers for the communication problems facing farmers.

The AEF, in support of ISOBUS implementation, focuses on tractor-implement connections by coordinating activities and development of guidelines to assist in the interpretation of the standard.

The result was an open concept, providing any combination of tractor, implement and terminals. As long as they comply with the ISOBUS standard, communication is possible.



Plugfests for Product Pairing

Another activity born out of the AEF organization is an event called “Plugfest.” Here, friends and competitors alike come from around the country to put aside competition and work together for the good of their customers.

In a beneficial version of Round Robin, partners pair their new applicable technologies to the machines that receive them, checking for communication problems and potential miscommunications.

At the end of the conference, both those making the machines and those developing products for them walk away with new data and an invaluable understanding of how to better their respective products.

This twice a year activity, Spring in the United States and Fall in Europe, provides the industry with the opportunity to test protocol defined in the ISO 11783 standards. This event has become so successful over the years, it’s now a three-day activity in each location, providing manufacturers a unique testing opportunity. 

The AEF Project Teams Look to the Future

As the Ag industry technology needs have grown, so has the AEF. We have had to look to the future for new functionalities and advancement in technology.

To develop the needed guidelines, new project teams have been added to the organization, manned by experts from the industry in their respective areas.

Some of the topics under development are:

  • ISOBUS Automation – This team was instrumental in the development of the new functionality called Tractor Implement Management (TIM) launched late in 2019. This system will allow the implement to provide input to the tractor to improve operational efficiencies.
  • High Speed ISOBUS – As current systems are reaching their limits in speed and bandwidth; this team is exploring concepts for increasing bandwidth between tractor and implement to speed up data exchange for future needs.
  • Wireless Infield Communication – This team is investigating technologies to meet the Ag industry’s future needs as data from machines and between machines will meet greater demands for more efficiency in the field.
  • Medium-Voltage – There is a move in other industries to provide higher system voltages. This team is reviewing these changes to ensure the Ag industry is prepared to meet the higher demands.
  • Security – In today’s market, this topic is becoming of greater importance. We must have confidence that our new technologies are safe and secure. This team of industry experts are working to ensure these qualities are there for the Ag industry.

Aiming to Improve Efficiency and Productivity

In 2018, the AEF celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Truly a global foundation with over 220-member companies from all over the world, the organization continues to grow with the help of the core leadership provided by eight agriculture manufactures and three associations.

This past January at the AEF yearly strategy meeting, AEF Chairman, Peter van der Vlugt, asked the steering committee to start envisioning the organization in 2030.

The organization needs to stay in touch with the future of the Ag industry, and keep looking towards the future to help the farmer be more efficient and productive.

About the Author: This article is the fourth in a series of eight by the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation (AEF), an independent organization founded on October 28th, 2008 by seven international ag equipment manufacturers and two associations. Today eight manufacturers and three associations are working as core members together with 220 general members. They work to improve cross-manufacturer compatibility of electronic and electric components in agricultural equipment, and to establish transparency about compatibility issues. You can become a member and learn more about the AEF by visiting: www.aef-online.org/home.html or contact the AEF communications team: andrew.olliver@aef-online.org or ryan.milligan@aef-online.org

The Precision Ag - What's under the ISOBUS hood? series is brought to you by the AEF.

More from this Series

The AEF Mission — The development and support for the implementation of generally accepted standards for electric and electronic interfaces as well as standards for data exchange for the agricultural machinery industry. The AEF is providing a framework for the cooperation of all interested parties under the leadership of the core members whilst maintaining competition amongst all members. The AEF supports standardization organizations such as the International Standards Organization (ISO)

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