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Retrofitting Is Cost-Effective Alternative to Trading in Planter

When Dalton Knobloch decided to upgrade his planter, he made a decision that saved him $100,000. Instead of trading in his existing planter for a new or used model, he bought a cheap, used 24-row White planter; stripped off the row units; and replaced them with Precision Planting’s Ready Row Units.

“You can get a used planter pretty cheap – you just have to find one with a good toolbar,” says the farmer from West Bend, Iowa, who is also a Precision Planting dealer. “We retrofit the White planter for $180,000 with Precision Planting products, so we have a high-tech planter, that’s more high tech than a brand new one, and saved $100,000 compared to buying new.”

Precision Planting started marketing its Ready Row Units last year with this concept in mind – that farmers can save money by retrofitting an existing planter and end up with a planter equipped with more technology.

Crunching the Numbers

What are you really getting when you buy a new planter? That’s a question that Bryce Baker at Precision Planting set out to answer.

Looking at 12-, 16-, 24-, and 36-row planters, Baker researched the cost of buying a new planter vs. retrofitting Precision Planting technology onto an existing planter.

When you’re buying a new planter, he found that 73% of the price covers the iron, toolbar, hydraulic hoses, tires, central fill tanks, and markers, leaving only 27% to invest in new technology. “In other words, 73¢ out of every dollar it cost you to trade is used to rebuy something that you already own,” says Baker. “We believe by retrofitting technology onto a planter you already have is the lowest cost way to get a new planter.”

How does that math stack up? If you take an existing toolbar, add a central fill system, and add Ready Row Units, 57% of the cost covers the toolbar, tires, and central fill. The other 43% goes toward the new row units and additional technology.

Here’s an example of what those numbers look like: An average 24-row, high-speed planter costs $315,200 (using numbers from Harvest International, AGCO, Case IH, and John Deere). If you’re retrofitting a 24-row planter to high speed with Precision Planting systems, the average cost is $85,100. If you’re retrofitting a 24-row toolbar with Ready Row Units and high-speed technology, the cost is $135,800. The technology calculated in this example includes 20|20, vSet, vDrive, DeltaForce, SpeedTube, and CleanSweep.

Ready Row Units are cast iron with 14-inch parallel arms, 16-inch disk openers, 11 inches of travel, and a variety of options for gauge wheels, closing wheels, row cleaners, and fertilizer coulters. The price per row ranges from $1,900 to $2,100, depending on options. These can be equipped with the latest technology from Precision Planting. Baker recommends focusing on technology that will get downforce correct, such as DeltaForce, and achieving 99% singulation, with tools like a vSet meter with vDrive hooked up to a 20|20 Gen 3 Monitor.

For Knobloch’s planter, he installed DeltaForce, vSet meter with vDrive, liquid control on every row, and SmartFirmer on every other row.

For Baker’s research, he did not include the price of setting up a new planter or the installation of the new row units. When retrofitting a 16-row planter, he estimates it would take 40 to 60 hours of labor at the rate set by a farmer’s local Precision Planting dealer.

“I would let the farmer do all of the row unit stuff,” says Knobloch, including stripping off the old units and bolting on the new ones. “When it comes to the wiring, I’d recommend having a Precision Planting dealer do it. That way if something goes wrong, it’s on the dealer’s end, not the farmer’s.”

Retrofit vs. Trade-in

There are two situations where retrofitting is a particularly good fit, says Baker. First, if you have a planter where the row units require a lot of maintenance and a farmer that’s interested in more technology. “If you need to replace a number of row unit parts, that could cost $600 to $800 a row,” he explains. “The farmer is in a conundrum where they have to do maintenance and want technology but don’t want to put technology on old row units. Or the farmer would like to get a newer planter, but it’s really expensive to trade.”

Retrofitting becomes a solution for this farmer, especially if the current planter has a toolbar that’s in good shape and is the right configuration. An alternative is to buy a used planter that is the right configuration, like Knobloch did.

This is also a viable solution for a farmer that wants a custom-built planter. “A Precision Planting Premier dealer can build a planter by buying a toolbar, putting on Ready Row Units, and putting a fertilizer system on exactly how a farmer wants it,” says Baker.

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