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New sprayer system type boosts farm traceability

Agriculture.com Staff 08/11/2008 @ 1:20pm

Traceability systems have become an essential tool with regard to food safety in the global marketplace. Traceability and quality control begins on the farm level.

Through a partnership with AGCO Corporation, researchers at the Cranfield University in the United Kingdom are working on technology to provide automatic recording systems, reducing the costs of collecting and managing data.

"Modern sprayers have the capability of controlling precisely the applications of chemical and produce application maps from the onboard controller," says Mark Sharitz, director of marketing for Ag-Chem. "However, there is still a gap in product identification and induction that needs to be done manually -- creating a gap in generating automatic records for sprayer inputs."

The goal for Cranfield researchers is to develop a prototype automatic chemical recording system and evaluate the market value and demand for such systems. The automatic chemical recording system integrates the identification of chemicals using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, and weighing chemicals within a standard induction hopper. The system will enable automatic identification and measure the chemical according to the specific task file, while creating job records.

"Our researchers have found the automatic recording system is easy to use, more accurate than manual measuring, and performs as fast as the conventional induction method, considering both loading and recording creation time," Sharitz says.

After initially developing the prototype, researchers measured farmers' reaction to this type of system. "This part of the experiment aims to identify how each operator judged the automatic chemical recording system attached to the Spra-Coupe. Farmers evaluated the time of filling the hoppers, ease of retrieving the data, accuracy of data gathered, investment costs and benefits of avoiding the use of unregistered chemicals," Sharitz says.

An evaluation form filled out by a panel of UK farmers indicates that currently 49% of respondents perceive a need for the system, with an emphasis on the prevention of pesticide misapplication. The other two main benefits were increased operator safety and data accuracy.

As research continues on the automated recording system, next steps will include expanding the questionnaire to both farmers who do their own spraying and those who contract spraying application services. Work also continues on engineering the chemical recording hopper that will operate with ISOBUS equipment. The goal is to incorporate existing hardware and software into the new technology.

"Both the RoGator and Spra-Coupe lines of sprayers are built to be more rugged than any other sprayer and have a history of bringing useful innovations to the market," Sharitz says. "We are now looking forward to continuing to participate in the expansion of new technology that will continue to make our line of sprayers the most technologically advanced in the industry."

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