Trimble moves to becoming a full precision farming service provider. According to Hamish Wilkie automisation needs to approached as a complete farming process in order to make a farmer’s work more efficient and make his life easier.
Hamish Wilkie is Trimble’s Sales Director for EMEA, CIS and Russia. He’s been with the company for 9 years and has witnessed the evolution of precision farming technology right from the beginning, when he grew up on a South African dairy farm, where he was an early adopter of precision farming technologies. At Agritechnica we had a chance to talk to Hamish Wilkie about the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead for Trimble and precision farming technology providers in general.
An increasing number of OEMs are developing their own GPS systems. That must be a threat to Trimble?
“It’s not so much a threat, but rather an opportunity. We actually work with a lot of these OEMs, such as AGCO and CNH. But we are working with them in the background, to provide the right technology to large or small OEM’s. In terms of guidance know-how and skills Trimble is and has always been at the forefront, so we will always play a part in the automisation process, also for the OEMs.”
With our knowledge and skills, we can help OEMs with the process of connecting farm operations
“Remember, guidance is just part of an automisation process, which does not just involve the vehicle. The whole process has to be automated, from guidance to data collection, synchronisation, connecting tractors with implements, and so on. Automisation in itself again is part of a larger process, called connectivity. Trimble moves to becoming a full precision farming service provider. With our knowledge and skills, we can help OEMs with the process of connecting farm operations.”
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Hamish Wilkie: "Only when you approach automisation as a complete farm process you can actually make a farmer’s work more efficient and make their life easier."- Photo: Trimble
How does Trimble move to becoming a full precision farming service provider?
“Our focus was always on guidance, but it has expanded in a big way. With the acquisition of Müller-Elektronik for instance we have entered the field of implements. We also developed the GreenSeeker crop sensing system, with which farmers can address field variability by applying the right amount of fertiliser, in the right place, at the right time. And with Trimble Select we offer a precision ag marketplace, which brings precision farming technology to the farming community through our worldwide network of Vantage and Trimble Resellers.”
“This is part of a bigger strategy to offer farmers a REAL solution, where out starting points are: what segments are we after; who are our customers; and what do they need?”
How do you know what farmers need?
“By doing research. Many startups are pushing products. They do customer research among 2 or 3 farmers and think they have a product all farmers want, while in reality they don’t need it. We make sure we offer solutions that farmers need, because we think like a farmer. And before we release any new product, we work with farmers, agronomists, equipment manufacturers et cetera to find out what they need and how the product must work for them.”
“Take for instance our new GFX-350 display and NAV-500 controller. We had an advanced release program, several months before product release. Our dealers, of whom many are farmers themselves, tested it themselves. They give us the feedback, and we set to work incorporating that feedback. We have 40 specialists for the EMEA region alone who work with our dealers to do just that.”
Would we like to offer fully brand-independent solutions? Yes, but I’m not sure the industry is ready for that
“Keep in mind that globally there are mixed fleets. Our policy is to provide a farmer with a full precision farming solution. That’s why our compatibility to ISOBUS allows Trimble to connect to literally thousands of different machines and implements. If it doesn’t work perfectly, we support our dealers to help the farmer make it work. In that sense, we offer local solutions. A farmer in Brazil faces different challenges than a farmer in Australia. We work hard to localize our solutions for any farmer worldwide. Would we like to offer fully brand-independent solutions? Yes, but I’m not sure the industry is ready for that.”
Compatibility and connectivity agreements
Farm data compatibility and connectivity agreements between Trimble Ag Software and other third-party farm management software platforms include Raven Slingshot system, AGCO VarioDoc and AgCommand systems, John Deere Operations Center, Case IH Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) Connect, New Holland Precision Land Management (PLM) Connect, and more.
In 2017 Trimble took over German company Müller-Elektronik. Will all Müller products be branded Trimble?
“No, Müller-Elektronik is a very strong brand name among OEMs, especially in Germany. For the OEM market it will therefore not change. For the aftermarket however Müller solutions will move to Trimble.”
How do you see the future of autonomous tractors?
“Well, there probably will be driverless tractors, technically we can make that possible. But then you run into all sorts of challenges, such as rules and regulations. But first you must ask yourself: what does automation really mean? For us, it means automatically transfer data to the tractor or machine, automatically let the tractor instruct the implement, automatically synchronise data sharing between different tractors or machines and the farmer’s office. It’s not just about an autonomous tractor or a swarm of machines, it encompasses the entire farm process.”
“Only when you approach automisation as a complete farm process you can actually make a farmer’s work more efficient and make their life easier. That’s were our Connected Farm comes in: user-friendly solutions that give farmers the tools to actually make data-drive decisions.”
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Trimble and CNH have enabled wireless connectivity between Trimble Ag Software and Case IH Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) Connect and New Holland Precision Land Management (PLM) Connect telematics platforms since 2017. Trimble sees a bright future in working with manufacturers like CNH on automisation of farm processes.
Adoption of precision ag technology among farmers remains somewhat slow. How can you accelerate that process?
“It’s all about return on investment and increasing efficiency. Guidance is well recognised and adapted by farmers, simply because they see it works and it helps them. Now it’s about all those other farm processes becoming automated and more efficient for farmers. Take Farmer Core and AutoSync for example, which connect, simplify, and streamline entire farm operations. The Farmer Core software compliments your existing Trimble system to manage precision farming data and simplify display setup to capture the most value from every acre.”
“Farmer Core is powered by AutoSync, a new feature that runs in the background to automatically sync all guidance lines, field names, boundaries, materials, implements, vehicles, and operator information across all connected devices. That’s what really makes a farmer’s life easier.”
Which markets hold the biggest potential?
“There is huge potential in countries such as Russia and Ukraine. But those are challenging markets to do business in. We need to have feet on the ground there, which we do and we are expanding this. France, the UK and Germany remain very important markets. Netherlands is currently our best penetrated market. However, I saw the recent farmer protests in The Hague on TV: there were thousands of tractors, and hardly any of them were equipped with a receiver. That shows there’s still a lot of ground to cover. Sure, we need to continue developing new technologies for the future, but at the same we must be very aware of what farmers need today.”
The Trimble headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. - Photo: Trimble