The world of precision ag technology is evolving well past those colorful maps you often see post-harvest. Producers, consultants, startup companies and established firms are changing the way they think about cropping and bringing tools for in-season action that can boost yields.
The challenge is having the right tech at work throughout the season. Agco became the final purchaser of Precision Planting from Bayer (formerly Monsanto) after that company had first been promised to John Deere. Today, Precision Planting continues its innovative work, and the parent company is putting those tools into new equipment. They’re also marketing those products to competitors.
About four years ago, Agco started working on the agronomy side of equipment. The Agco Crop Tour became a way to share how machine setup and equipment work to boost emergence and crop yields. For 2019, Agco has added a new team member – Jason Lee – who comes with a freshly minted Ph.D. from Purdue University and will be working as an agronomist for the farm equipment company.
For 2019, Agco is adding tillage work to its field-size plots around the country – four locations in Central Wisconsin and four in Illinois. Later this year the company will conduct plot tours. For now, Lee, speaking at a recent media event, shared that 2019 was no easy year for getting plots established. “And farmers we work with were reluctant to work with us due to the kind of year they were having,” he said.
He noted that the 2019 planting season is indicative of what farmers will face going forward and having information from projects like the Crop Tour will have value. For example, there are a lot of ideas and beliefs surrounding tillage and its use, but Lee added: “Those are opinions not facts. We want to validate tillage practices in field trials and start building a database of information.”
We’ll be following the tour this year in part to see how this crazy planting season impacted the results, and what the company learned.
One interesting opportunity is the Smart Firmer. This Precision Planting innovation can map factors at a level not possible in the past. The organic matter map on this page shows the Smart Firmer information on the left and a satellite map on the right – darker areas denote more organic matter. Having that level of information as a data layer for evaluating crop performance could be very important. “I’m interested in seeing how that will work out,” Lee said.
It’s further evidence that precision ag can add more information but evaluating what is learned will be key. You can track the work of the Crop Tour at blog.agcocorp.com/crop-care.
New telemetry tool
During the Agco event, the company also launched its next generation telemetry tool – AGCO Connect. This will eventually replace AgCommand, the company’s first run at telemetry, with a web-based tool that also supports an app-based approach for tracking and monitoring equipment.
The system – which works only with Agco brands but works with all of those – allows a farmer, and dealer (with permission), to view a farm’s equipment fleet from a single interface. And farmers who are brand loyal can pick the “skin” through which they get the information.
If Massey Ferguson is your favorite brand, the system can be set up with the MF look. Mike Uilk, Fuse product specialist, Agco, shared that the level of data available to farmers and dealers will expand with the service. “You can track fuel use, [diesel exhaust fluid] use, work efficiency and other factors with the system,” he said.
With the tool, dealers can also be proactive about setting up service by knowing hours run and when a machine may be due for work. Dealers will have an overview of machine activity including service requirements, error codes and the ability to provide remote diagnostics.
“The service is web based and app based,” Uilk explained. “And the customer has complete control of their data.”
We were curious about data control. A mass of good machine data can be a boon to companies seeking ways to improve equipment efficiency, track warranty issues and create “proactive” models for future service prediction work. Alt was clear that a farmer’s information remains on the farm unless they provide permission for dealers and the company to see it. “The dealer and the company do not have access to that data,” he noted.
The system has no limits to number of machines to track. There’s a single subscription fee, and prices for AGCO Connect were not announced. The service will officially launch at the 2019 Farm Progress Show.