For Paul Anderson, who farms with his father, Richard and runs Victoria Seed & Processing near Coleharbor, N.D., adapting their equipment to use precision farming technology has proven to be a frustrating experience due to cross-brand compatibility issues. However, it’s an important part of their strip-till system for corn and sunflower production.
“If the planter gets off of the strip-till zone, we see corn yields impacted by as much as 50 bushels per acre,” Paul says.
The Andersons use a John Deere 9400 tractor to pull a 16-row Thurston Mfg. Blu-Jet strip-till unit in the fall and then a 32-row Deere DB80 planter with section control and variable-rate drive for corn and sunflower planting. They quickly found that many precision components are not compatible with older tractors and implements. The Andersons need the accuracy of RTK to keep the planter on the same track as the strip-tilled zones.
“I have four antennas on the roof of my tractor to get my precision equipment to work,” Paul says. “John Deere doesn’t make an integrated steering kit for the 9400 PowerShift tractor and their original AutoTrac Universal (ATU) guidance system isn’t good enough for RTK.”
Anderson’s work-around is an Outback MAX monitor and eDrive X hydraulic steering system with an Outback A321 base station. “We get within an inch RTK-level accuracy, even on our rolling fields,” Paul says.
When the Andersons switched to the 32-row planter, they found the rate controllers weren’t ISOBUS compatible, leaving them with limited options to effectively control seeding rates.
“I tried to put the GPS signal from the Outback MAX into the John Deere 2630 monitor,” Paul says. “We had a harness custom-made that so the pins in the harness and the GPS coordinates matched.”
But the Deere rate controllers and the Outback system don’t use the same number of digits in the GPS string, so the rate controllers wouldn’t accept the speed pulse correctly. To get the rate controllers to work, Anderson had to invest in a StarFire 3000 receiver with SF1 activation. It was an unplanned expense but a necessary one for Anderson, who didn’t want to sacrifice efficiency or performance in the field.
What Farmers Want From You is a series of farmer profiles that examine the scope of precision farming tools individual farmers are using on their operation, along with the frustrations that can occur with adopting new technology and how dealers can alleviate those "points of pain" for farm customers. For the latest additions to the series, visit our What Farmers Want From You feed.
To monitor seeding rate, Anderson uses a Precision Planting 20/20 system. An iPad is connected to the 20/20 system to capture the data for later analysis. “The right side of the cab is a pretty busy place,” Paul says.
For spraying, they rely on a Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) signal captured by the Outback GPS and feeds information to a Rinex 7500 box that issues commands to the Raven 450 switch for rate, flow and section control.
“The technical writer who put the instructions together for Rinex should get a Pulitzer Prize,” Paul says “It was easy to follow and is very accurate, even with a WAAS signal and works well with articulated tractors. I figure that I have gone from 10% overlap to 1% with this system. At $20 per acre, that adds up fast.”
Point of Pain: One-Brand Technicians
Anderson understands his older equipment and cross brands complicate precision equipment selection and setup, but he’s frustrated with technicians’ inability to solve issues.
“It seems if you don’t have a yellow globe and all green equipment, you can’t get any support from the big green company,” he says.
Instead, he’s searched the country for experts and can name five or six who have been helpful.
“I think I could comfortably seat all of the technicians who can work with various systems in my Suburban,” he says. “Too few technicians know anything about systems other than the one brand they service. They are lost when it comes to other colors of equipment.”