Having many terminals might make you look like a very high-tech farmer, but how many do you need?
Recently I visited one of the NPPL precision agriculture (PA) project participants to discuss the PA applications he was going to apply during the 2019 growing season. The participant had been thorough in doing his homework, displayed by the quotations for different systems per PA application on the table.
While looking through the quotations, it struck me that each quotation contained a terminal, which was said to be required to make the application work. Though I had to agree the SBG/Raven GPS autosteer terminals on the farm do not support ISOBUS, we felt that buying a separate terminal for each application would definitely be overdoing it.
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While talking, we discussed the new tractor the participant had just bought. Built in 2018, we felt that surely this tractor must be ISOBUS compatible. A quick call to the local dealer confirmed our thoughts and revealed that also a second tractor on the farm was already ISOBUS compatible.
This meant that the only thing we had to do was feed the RTK-corrected GPS location from the SBG/Raven autosteer terminal to the ISOBUS terminals integrated in the tractors. We quickly found that a simple cable was all that was needed to make this happen. Sadly, not all ISOBUS terminals support variable rate applications, so our next step is to find out if the ISOBUS terminals integrated in the two tractors on the farm do.
Personally, I understand that each manufacturer prefers to have his own terminal used in a PA application. Having designed and tested the system themselves, the company can be 99,9% sure the system works out of the box and if problems occur, the support department can easily provide support.
You can often save money by simply investigating which functionality already is built into your tractors, machines and the terminals you already own before buying yet another terminal
However, this also increases the investment required per PA application, thus stretching the return-on-investment time. ISOBUS was invented just to prevent this, making sure each machine could communicate with each implement, eliminating the need to have 5 terminals in your cab.
If you have a tractor with an integrated ISOBUS-terminal, your autosteer GPS terminal can send the GPS coordinates to the ISOBUS-terminal through a simple cable. After connecting an ISOBUS implement, the system should work without problems. An additional advantage of using an ISOBUS terminal integrated in the tractor is that this terminal often has access to more data and functions of the tractor, improving efficiency.
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The main message of this story is that you can often save money by simply investigating which functionality already is built into your tractors, machines and the terminals you already own before buying yet another terminal.
Having many terminals in your cab might make you look like a very high-tech farmer, but I’m quite sure you will not be able to watch all screens at the same time and at the same time check the quality of your work through the rear-window. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Researcher Precision Agriculture and Agro-Food Robotics
Koen van Boheemen is a researcher precision agriculture at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. He focusses on smart data collection and usage throughout the farming operation. One of the points of interest in this work is compatibility and putting data from machine or operation A to work for machine or operation B.