Brandon Christiansen likes bringing new technology to his farm near Plainview, Neb., especially when that technology can make management a little easier. That’s why he welcomed the opportunity to try a new full-color capacitive touch screen irrigation control module from FieldWise LLC, based in Ewing, Neb.
The touch screen Zempat 5+ is a 10-inch control module that works as a retrofit on a Reinke center pivot close to the farm headquarters. Christiansen says he is careful about the types of technology he uses on his farm, because he wants them to be cost-effective.
First unveiled in December 2017, the Z5 series modules, which also include the recently released Z5+ 10-inch screen, don’t have clumsy soft-touch buttons that wear out over time. Instead, it responds like a smartphone with an easy swipe motion and a modern graphic look, says Brian Klawinski, FieldWise business manager. It fits into the same panel location where the percent timer is, while keeping the rest of the panel intact. The new units include a Smart Menu Navigation, over-current protection and faulty micro-switch detection.
After testing the unit during the summer of 2017, the company unveiled the Z5 5-inch model in December of that same year, making it commercially available for the first time in 2018.
Klawinski says that about 500 units are out in the field, and the company is unveiling the new, larger 10-inch screen to make the units more user-friendly. “We’ve received good feedback from our customers, so that drives what we do,” he says.
“About five years ago, I shopped around for a telemetry package for my irrigation systems,” Christiansen says. “I settled on FieldWise partly because of the communication reliability.”
The ability of the company to quickly diagnose any performance issues and troubleshoot problems with the pivot was also a selling point for Christiansen. He says that the service-oriented philosophy of FieldWise helps keep his pivots rolling.
“They have really listened to their customers and responded,” he says. “The Z5 is perfect for any future integration of variable-rate irrigation across the spans.”
For Christiansen, having the flexibility built into this new unit allowing for easy adoption of future technology, is an added benefit. Right now, he does not have that technology but plans to down the road.
The safety circuit is another key. With Z5 Smart Start, the safety circuit is being checked at start-up and while the pivot is moving. According to Klawinski, the Z5 verifies the safety circuit is free of a short that may occur anywhere on the system, which could prevent the safety from working properly. This allows the pivot to stop if there is a fault and prevent damage to the system.
“The other advantage is that there is no need to replace the entire panel,” says Jared Kruntorad, sales manager for FieldWise. “You can retrofit the new screen module into any existing panel from nearly every pivot manufacturer and take control of the pivot.”
That was a big selling point for Christiansen. “The fact that the Z5 could fit into the percent timer location in the panel without anyone having to cut holes in my panel doors or fabricate part of the panel was a big deal for me,” he says.
FieldWise offers an in-field radio network to communicate with other devices, so there is built-in remote capability, and control is not reliant on spotty cellular service. When paired with the FieldWise Portal, it allows full access to all controls in or out of the field and synchronizes all changes on both interfaces.
Control features for the Z5 include start, stop, direction, pump, chemigation and fertigation, speed, up to three end guns, flow, remote wells, and intelligent collision detection. It also includes controls for auto-restart, auto-reverse, pressure start and pump pressure at the main panel and end of the system.
“Adding a Z5 can cost between $1,500 and $3,000, depending on if you choose the 5-inch or 10-inch LCD,” Kruntorad says. “Keep in mind that both include end-of-system GPS for positioning, and the 10-inch includes five years of online access, compared to between $4,000 and $7,000 that it would cost to replace with an entirely new panel with GPS.”
You can learn more about the new Z5 series by contacting FieldWise at field-wise.com.