Buying guide: Autosteer retrofit kits

Photo: Hexagon
Photo: Hexagon

Nearly 25 years ago, Australia was the birth and experimental ground of autosteer systems. Which retrofit autosteer systems can you choose from today? These manufacturers responded to our call for a buying guide.

Controlled traffic farming was the first farming practice to use handsfree autosteer technology not based on light bars or other assisted steering technology.

Autosteer, also referred to as auto guidance or autopilot technology, was first developed by Australian farmers Mike and Robert Mailler. They started using their universal controlled steering system in 1997. Mike Mailler attributed a 40% increase in production to the new autosteer system and the Maillers started manufacturing and marketing their autosteer technologies as Beeline Technologies.

According to the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the pre-production Beeline Arro autosteer system fitted to two of the Maillers John Deere 9400 tractors, costed AUS $ 40,000 each plus AUS $ 15,000 for a universal base station in 2000.

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Potato planting with Ag Leader auto-steer. Photo: Ag Leader

Potato planting with Ag Leader auto-steer. Photo: Ag Leader

14 suppliers

Although nearly every tractor manufacturer nowadays offers factory fitted electrical and/or hydraulic autosteer systems, there’s a still a vast number of retrofit suppliers to choose from. Future Farming approached 14 companies across the world to create a buying guide of universal brand independent autosteer retrofit kits.

Those who responded in time, are included in the first version of the buying guide. Other suppliers are invited to ask for the questionnaire to complete in order to be included.

The systems included in the buying guide range in price from € 200 (US $ 235) to € 16,000 ($ 19,600). The lowest price applies to a software license from Spanish Cerea intended for ‘home-made’ (electrical) autosteer systems. The most affordable ‘turnkey’ system is also offered by Cerea at € 4,670 ($ 5,515). The most expensive system included is offered by Ag Leader € 16,000 ($ 19,600).

On average, you’d currently be looking at starting prices for both electrical and hydraulic autosteer systems between € 7,000 ($ 8.250) and € 9,000 ($ 10,600).

That’s quite a difference from the AUS $ 40,000 required for the first autosteer systems in the year 2020! Today, that would be a whopping AUS $ 65,600 (€ 42,400 / US $ 50,000)! And you would need an additional € 16,000 (US $ 18,750) for the necessary base station.

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Nowadays you can use autosteer technology at speeds as low as 0.07 km/h, that’s 70 metres per hour. - Photo: John Deere

Nowadays you can use autosteer technology at speeds as low as 0.07 km/h, that’s 70 metres per hour. – Photo: John Deere

Other developments and innovations

It’s not just the prices that have gone down. Nowadays you can use autosteer technology at speeds as low as 0.07 km/h, that’s 70 metres per hour! And some manufacturers can even engage autosteer from a standstill. Maximum possible speeds have also increased and are now at a staggering 48 km/h!

Navigation started off with the American global positioning system (GPS) and today, there’s 5 satellite systems across the globe that are relevant for navigation and autosteer. You can probably name 4, but what about the 5th? You’ll find it in our buying guide!

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The Trimble GFX-750 display with its 10 inch touchscreen offers extensive possibilities for precision farming, such as section control, variable rate, wireless data exchange and full ISOBUS support. - Photo: Trimble

The Trimble GFX-750 display with its 10 inch touchscreen offers extensive possibilities for precision farming, such as section control, variable rate, wireless data exchange and full ISOBUS support. – Photo: Trimble

But there’s more technical developments from which farmers can benefit. Such as Isobus compatibility and unlocks/licenses, standardised data exchange formats, doing autoturns on headlands and solutions to ‘survive’ temporary failure of correction and/or satellite signals. And when you run a trailed or self-propelled sprayer, the maximum number of operable sections can now go up to 255!

Have a look at what they have in store for you here.

Koerhuis
René Koerhuis Precision Farming Specialist