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3 big planter tech trends

Updated: 02/17/2014 @ 9:30am

In recent years, there has been an industry-wide movement to cut back the number of consoles in the tractor cab.

“This effort has come in the form of additional functions being performed by a single field computer,” says Ryan Molitor, Raven marketing manager. “ISOBUS-based control systems are also coming of age and are allowing the tractor-equipped field computer to display and control planters of different colors.”

Tablets are also making a big splash in agriculture.

“With auto guidance becoming the norm, we will see additional tools that allow the operator and producer to be better informed about their planting operation,” says Molitor. “A recent example of this is tablets displaying real-time application maps of agronomic factors.”

“We don’t need all of these wires running back to the planter,” says AGCO’s Hamilton. “We need an iPad in the cab to eliminate all of the interference and potential damage.”

Will tablets replace consoles completely? Only time will tell.

Fewer drivers

Removing you from the tractor seat is a concept companies like Kinze Manufacturing are pursuing.

“Three years ago, we planted 150 acres of corn with autonomous technology,” says Jon Kinzenbaw of Kinze Manufacturing. “We could have literally sat in the pickup and watched it plant that whole farm. In the future, you’re going to see a lot of machinery driven or run by this system or a system like it.”

“Autonomy has proven to be more efficient,” adds Susanne Kinzenbaw Veatch of Kinze Manufacturing. “It allows you to have more time to do other things.”

Some in the industry feel adoption of this type of technology will be a step-by-step process and will ultimately come down to the price tag it bears.

“I believe there are several stepping stones needed between where we are today and the wide use of autonomous vehicles,” says Adam Gittins of HTS Ag. “First, we need to have stable wireless communications between vehicles in the field and vehicles to the office.”

While there have been strides made toward this, Gittins feels more time is needed to make sure it is stable, timely, and not limited by distance.

“This acts as a springboard for the ability to control one vehicle in the field from another,” he continues. “Step two would be to completely remove the operator from the tractor, and the combine operator could dock a grain cart to follow the combine, then undock to park the grain cart and leave it stationary.”

Next, he believes, would be having a vehicle that would be autonomous but still have an operator, as John Deere has done with Machine Sync. “This allows you to keep an eye on everything and stop the operation if something goes wrong.”

The final step, Gittins says, is to have two vehicles running in the same field with one operator. “For instance, you may plant with two tractors and two planters, and control one of them remotely from the cab of the other tractor,” he says. “That still allows for some windshield observation to quickly stop a system that malfunctions.”

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