The benefits of retrofitting

Retrofitting is a cost-effective alternative to trading in your 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. It’s more high tech than a brand-new one and saved $100,000 compared with buying new.”

Precision Planting started marketing its Ready Row Units with this concept in mind: 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 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 retrofitting technology onto a planter you already have is the lowest cost way to get a new planter.”

How does that math add 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.

The price per row for the Ready Row Units 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

Where are two situations where retrofitting is a particularly good fit, says Baker. First, if you have a planter with row units that require a lot of maintenance and a farmer who’s interested in more technology. Second, if you have a farmer who wants a custom-built planter.

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