Raven Industries entered the implement steering market in May through the acquisition of SBG Innovatie BV, a relatively small, but highly specialized supplier in the precision ag market, based in the Netherlands. The company is known for its SBGuidance Twin, an umbrella term for a group of GPS steering solutions, where both tractor and implement are steered simultaneously, but independently. Rik van Bruggen, SPG sales manager in Europe, tells us what the product will bring to the market.
When did you introduce the technology?
The first version was released in 2007 and was limited to tractor steering, combined with a side-shift steering for mounted implements. The full version was released in 2008 by adding various different ways to steer the implement: tongue steering, coulter steering or wheel steering.
How is it being used in Europe?
The primary application is typically in high-value crops and large pull-type implements. Customers demand higher accuracies and better repeatability than achievable by tractor steering only.
In row crop farming, farmers who are adopting strip-till systems and controlled-traffic farming use Twin steering to ensure that follow-up operations, like fertilizer application and planting, will match. Twin steering is especially beneficial when working widths of the various implements vary — for example, six-row planting and four-row harvesting.
How does the system work?
Two independent steering systems, based on one control platform, work cooperatively with each other. Both the tractor and implement have their own GPS/GLONASS antenna, steering valve and terrain compensation module, but share one display. The tractor is steered hydraulically by a retro-fit GPS steering kit or by using the steer-ready components on the tractor. The implements can be controlled using the existing steerable tongue or axle, by adding control hardware like side-shift rams, disk coulters, or by using a steerable drawbar.
How might the technology be used in the future?
Resistant weeds in Roundup Ready GM [geneticially modified] crops are increasingly affecting growers. Additional mechanical cultivation might revive as an effective way to control these weeds. Using Twin steering on both planters and cultivators can reduce crop damage and allow you to cultivate a larger portion of the field than ever possible before. Twin steering eliminates the need that the work width of planters and cultivators has to be the same.
Another potential use is in manure application. The traditional way of applying manure has environmental challenges, and the nutrient use is less efficient than it could be. Strip-tilling manure in springtime with modified equipment could address both concerns.
What sets your steering system apart from others?
SBG offers the whole steering system: hardware, software and mechanical parts. Our accurate terrain compensation ensures unmatched accuracy levels, when it comes to repeatability. SBG offers some specific software features mostly used in vegetable production, like low-speed operation (0.022 mph) and marking sprayer tracks and headlands.
When can farmers buy this?
We will have a limited release this spring, with full availability in the fall of 2015. Prices range from $29,000 for a steer-ready tractor with an implement that has the necessary steering system factory-installed, to $37,000 for a non-steer-ready tractor with an implement that has to be equipped with a steering system, like disk coulters or a side-shift cylinder.
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