Aerial Precision

Chuck Zimmerman

David EbyThis week I’m attending the National Agricultural Aviation Association Convention in Las Vegas. It’s the first contact I’ve had with this group and I’ve been learning a lot. For example, I didn’t realize how big a role precision agriculture is playing in aerial application. I guess it makes sense though. If you can use gps and variable rate on the ground then why not from the air?

One of the people who explained some of this to me was David Eby, AgSync, pictured on the left of Denise and Ryan Eby in their trade show booth. David says that they realized the need for aerial application companies to have a software solution for managing data, especially when they’ve got multiple planes in the air. So they developed AgSync, which is a web based solution for this problem. We’re sure seeing a growth in web based programming aren’t we? Even in ag!

David says they’ve been working closely with BASF on the development of this program. I’ve been hearing a lot of applicators here talking about BASF’s Headline fungicide and I asked him what that has meant for the business. He says “it has changed our world in aerial application.”

Listen to my interview with David here: [audio:]

If you’d like to see some photos from the convention then check these out: NAAA Convention Photo Album

AgWired coverage of the 2008 National Agricultural Aviators Association Convention
is sponsored by: BASF.

Ag Group, Audio, NAAA

Survey Says Less Steering Wheel Use

Kurt Lawton

Like farmers, more retailers are using their steering wheels less this past year–without going in the ditch!

Survey says…adoption of auto guidance grew from 27% use by retailers to 37% in 2008. Other growing precision technologies being applied for customers include GPS guidance using lightbars, satellite/aerial imagery, field mapping with GIS for legal/billing/insurance purposes, and GPS for logistics uses.

When asked how they see farmer use expanding in the next three years (percent of acres in their retail area), survey says…

  • soil sampling w/GPS will grow from 27% to 44% of acres
  • field mapping w/GPS will grow from 27% to 46%
  • variable seeding w/GPS will grow from 5% to 18%
  • variable fertilizer w/GPS will grow from 20% to 38%
  • satellite imagery will grow from 9% to 20%
  • lightbar guidance w/GPS will grow from 35% to 50%
  • auto guidance w/GPS will grow from 15% to 33%
  • yield monitors w/GPS will grow from 22% to 42%
  • yield monitors w/o GPS will grow from 26% to 32%

These facts, and plenty more, came from the 13th annual survey by Crop Life magazine and Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business. Over 275 U.S. retailers responded. 

For some light winter reading, check out the entire 55-page report here 2008 dealership survey. You’ll also discover their opinions on barriers to growth and expansion, as well as how they see their role with manufacturers and customers.

Dealers, Research

How To Think About Variable Rate

Kurt Lawton

With fertilizer costs and 2009 cropping plans being top-of-mind right now, variable-rate (VR) application is an option you should explore to improve efficiency.

But where does one begin their thought process to understand the value of VR? The story of Durango Farms in Lacombe, Alberta is a story worth reading because it walks you through their thinking. This presentation was part of 2008 FarmTech Foundation of Alberta’s annual conference on new technology, environmental issues, agronomy and farm management topics. 

From Durango Farms experience, their advice is to do your homework to see if VR has a fit in your fields. From their experience, here are their 10 tips for looking at VR technology: 

1) Plan ahead. Make buying decisions that will allow implementation of VR at a later date. 

2) Allow enough time to make sure the systems are all working properly. 

3) Draw on experience and knowledge from others. Have a support team that you can draw on. 

4) If you are variable rating more than one product try to avoid blending. Much easier system to handle field to field if you have 

dedicated tanks for individual products. 

5) Larger air seeder tanks allow more flexibility and reduces tank changes during the season 

6) Use systems that give you feedback. As applied maps and yield monitors help to confirm what you did and the results. 

7) Understand practical implications between soil testing and application. Fall banding and winter wheat are examples of working 

within a narrow window. 

8) Fine tune your system over time. You are treating your fields differently than in the past. Understand the response and make 

changes accordingly. 

9) Define your limiting factors and their economic costs and then build the appropriate response. 

10) Look for other opportunities zone management can provide. 

You can read more valuable papers from past proceedings, too.
Precision in Practice, Resources

More Precision at Beltwide

Cindy Zimmerman

Cotton growers who were not able to attend the recent Crop Management Seminar in Mississippi have another chance to hear more about precision during the upcoming Beltwide Cotton Conferences.

National Cotton CouncilThe National Cotton Council works closely with Cotton Incorporated on planning technical and producer sessions for the Beltwide, which this year will include workshops on zone fertility management, precision software for consultants and precision record keeping.

Cotton Inc economist Dr. Jeanne Reeves says precision record keeping can help producers manage input costs more effectively. “We’re going to show how all aspects of that – from the crop production side, to the accounting side, to keeping up with labor, filing tax returns – is all part of the software growers can use to manage their business,” Reeves said.

The Beltwide Cotton Conferences are scheduled for January 5-8 in San Antonio.

Education, Events, Software

Precision Workshops for Cotton Growers

Cindy Zimmerman

Ed Barnes Cotton IncThe recent Cotton Incorporated Crop Management Seminar in Tunica, Mississippi featured workshops to help growers learn more about precision management.

Director of Agricultural Research Ed Barnes says they actually had two different precision workshops. “One for people who really had not done any work with precision agriculture. We had a workshop on the basics of how to scout your field, use a GPS and download data back to the computer.”

“Then we had a second workshop for people who are more experienced and wanted to take it to a new level, transitioning to zone management where you manage by soil type a little more,” said Barnes. The workshops concluded with a look at the “Green Seeker” variable rate application and mapping system that can help cotton growers make real time variable rate applications of plant growth regulators and defoliants.

Some 200 growers were able to attend the workshops and Cotton Inc plans to have another at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in January.

Cotton, Education, Equipment, Reach for the Stars, Software

Precision Products For The Budget Minded

Chuck Zimmerman

GreenStar LightbarIf you’re looking for an economical way to get started using precision ag on your farm, John Deere has some new options.

Adding to the extensive lineup of GreenStar precision ag products, John Deere announces a new line of economical systems to help operators get started with precision ag or enhance the older systems they may already own.

“Let’s start with the new GreenStar Lightbar,” says Kyle Collins, senior marketing representative, John Deere Ag Management Solutions. “Many of our customers need a simple, economical parallel tracking display. Our new lightbar has 27 tracking LEDs to guide the operator as they are driving their equipment through the field. They easily steer the tractor or other self-propelled machine left or right based on which lights are illuminated.”

While I was attending the recent National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention I spoke about the new budget precision options with Laura Robson, John Deere Senior Marketing Manager.

You can listen to my interview with Laura here: [audio:]

Audio, Equipment

Precision Ag In The News

Chuck Zimmerman

Precision farming was in the news on Here’s an excerpt.

“I know it sounds like you’re spending a lot of money, but when you sit down and put hard numbers to it, it pays for itself in a short amount of time,” Diller said. “Guys who are using it tell you it’s the best money they’ve ever spent.”

Two examples: Planters that are programmed can avoid double planting. And, tractors that have automated steering increase accuracy.

“Some guys will say that’s half the fun of being out there,” Diller said, eliciting some knowing laughs from his audience.

Precision Ag in the News

Happy Thanksgiving

Chuck Zimmerman

Happy Thanksgiving From ZimmComm New Media

Have a Happy Thanksgiving from ZimmComm New Media.

And just in case you want to know more, here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a harvest festival. Traditionally, it’s a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general. Thanksgiving is a North American holiday with the dates and whereabouts of the first Thanksgiving celebration a topic of modest contention. It has generally become a national secular holiday with religious origins. Though the earliest attested Thanksgiving celebration was on September 8, 1565 in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida[1][2], the traditional “first Thanksgiving” is venerated as having occurred at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in 1621.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Thanksgiving dinner is held on this day, usually as a gathering of family members.

Company Announcement

Online Precision Training Module

Chuck Zimmerman

TransAtlantic Precision Agriculture ConsortiumI was just searching for precision agriculture training and found the TransAtlantic Precision Agriculture Consortium. It doesn’t look like they’re currently offering classes but they do have an educational training module still online.

The presentations on this page cover 15 topics important to precision agriculture. After carefully reviewing these topics, you should have a good appreciation for the techniques, technologies, and principles important to precision agriculture as well as their applications to production agriculture.

The information below is derived from teaching material created by Dr. George Vellidis for APTC 3030 – Principles of Precision Agriculture, a course he teaches at the University of Georgia, and from teaching material developed by Dr. Hermann Auernhammer for precision agriculture courses he teaches at the Technische Universität München.

Education, University

Precision Ag From The Air

Chuck Zimmerman

Indiana Unmanned Aircraft Systems PlaneIndiana Unmanned Aircraft Systems is taking precision to the air with a successful test flight. This is a picture of one of their units from their website.

Indiana Unmanned Aircraft Systems (IUAS), a Muncie, Indiana based aerospace company and manufacturer of small unmanned aircraft systems, announced the first successful test flight of its Im VII Air Vehicle Two (Im VII AV-2) took place on Saturday, November 8.

Im VII AV-2 represents over six years of research and development into small flying wing aircraft that do not require an onboard flight computer to remain stable in the air. The company is the only designer and manufacturer of all-wing aircraft developed specifically for precision agriculture imaging applications. “Our all-wing platforms are world leaders in payload lifting and flight endurance capability as compared to similar-size aircraft of conventional designs,” says Jeff Imel designer of the Im VII and company founder.

The aircraft is integrated to hyper-spectral cameras for use in precision agriculture image capture and analysis. The images are used by growers to determine the health of their crops, insect infestation, storm damage assessment and nitrogen run-off analysis. IUAS will be working with universities, agriculture business, and farmers across the state of Indiana.

Aerial Imagery