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New tools add precision

Upgrade your precision system for better accuracy, speed and convenience.

Whether you're a novice or a pro at precision farming, you'll find tools to fit your operation in this roundup of the latest precision product innovations.

New satellite GPS receivers

Several companies are offering new L-band differential GPS (DGPS) receivers with accuracy of less than one meter.

Some also are offering global positioning receivers that will read the signal from a new free source of differential correction called the wide area augmentation system (WAAS). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designed WAAS to improve the integrity and accuracy of the current GPS. Its performance is similar to that of other existing L-band systems with accuracy hovering around one meter. However, the FAA recently delayed introduction of the signal to improve its integrity and meet safety standards. Therefore, the signal's message format may change, and the signal may not cover all of the continental U.S.

Higher accuracy. John Deere's new StarFire position receiver features a new L-band signal network that brings new levels of GPS accuracy to GreenStar precision farming systems. It offers three signal options: WAAS (6-ft. accuracy), single DGPS frequency (30-in. accuracy) and dual DGPS frequency (10-in. accuracy). The WAAS signal is free, the single DGPS signal costs $500/year, and the dual DGPS signal costs $800/year. Deere offers a "buy two years and get the third year free" promotion for both the single- and dual-frequency subscriptions. With the StarFire receiver, you can start at a basic level, then upgrade the signal as your needs change.

The StarFire uses a 10-channel engine to track as many as two signals from 10 GPS satellites at once. Suggested retail price is $4,000. However, current GreenStar mapping system owners can exchange their C-band receiver to an L-band version of their current receiver for no charge, or they may upgrade to the StarFire receiver for $600. Deere will no longer support the current C-band receiver. For more information, contact John Deere North American, Dept. FIN, Ag. Mrktg. Center, 11145 Thompson Ave., Lenexa, KS 66219, 888/476-7827.

No cable antenna. Trimble's new AgGPS 114 DGPS Smart Antenna features a built-in receiver and an antenna in one housing for a smaller, lighter, less expensive product with simplified wiring. It eliminates the need to run an antenna cable from the top of a cab into its interior in order to receive GPS signals from satellites.

"Before this you would have to buy both the antenna and receiver individually and mount the antenna on the outside of your tractor, combine or sprayer cab and mount the receiver on the inside and connect them with a coaxial cable," explains George Huber, sales and marketing manager for Trimble. "And the receiver had to have a power and a data cable connected to another device in the cab."

This device, which weighs only 2 lbs., can be used with any precision farming device, including a yield monitor, a lightbar for vehicle guidance, and variable rate planters and applicators. The receiver receives L-band differential correction, which is a subscription service broadcast by Ominstar or Racal, to ensure position accuracy to within less than one meter. It also will be able to receive the free WAAS signal. Suggested list price is $3,000. Contact Trimble Navigation Ltd., Dept. FIN, 9290 Bond, Suite 102, Overland Park, KS 66214, 800/865-7438.

Combination receiver. AGCO is offering a Beacon/ WAAS combination receiver and antenna built by Northstar for its Fieldstar precision farming system. With a flip of a switch, the 12-channel GPS receiver can switch from the Coast Guard's Beacon signal to the WAAS-only signal. In the Beacon mode, the WAAS signal is used as a backup. AGCO also offers sub-meter accuracy with a new DGPS Beacon-only free service from CSI and L-band DGPS (global) satellite sub-meter correction service from Racal, which requires a $500/year subscription fee after the first year. Suggested retail prices start at $2,720, with the new Beacon/WAAS combination DGPS at $3,540. For more information, contact AGCO Corp., Dept. FIN, 4205 River Green Pkwy., Duluth, GA 30096, 816/452-4813.

WAAS ready. Every domestic Satloc SLXg and SLX300 receiver that is in the field can be WAAS ready with a simple firmware update. Satloc's new SLX300 receiver has the capability to use WAAS, Beacon (300 Hz) and/or OmniStar L-band technologies. Suggested list price: $4,000. For more information, contact Satloc Inc., Dept. FIN, 15990 N. Green Way Hayden Loop, Suite 800, Scottsdate, AZ 85260, 480/348-9919.

Vision System

In January 1999, Wag Corporation purchased the Vision System from Rockwell. The system is a crop reporting and analysis tool that combines GPS with the record keeping and database management of geoprocessing software.

WAG has expanded the architecture of the Vision System to make it compatible with most all GIS software systems. The company now has agreements to interface its technology with Agvance Mapping, AGIS, View-Point, Farm Trac, Farm Site, Site Pro Mapping, FarmYes, FarmHMS, FarmGPS, and SST software and expects to announce additional agreements with other software suppliers. The new 6.02a version software for the Vision computer display (VCD) includes enhanced data management functions for soil sampling, field application, harvest, mapping and navigation.

With Wag's new "rent to own" program, growers, ag retailers and custom applicators can rent a VCD for $1,300 for six months of continuous service. Customers who elect to buy the display at the end of the agreement can have 80% of the rental charge applied toward a special purchase price of $4,200.

The limited-time offer also includes a six-month rental of a Beacon receiver for $400, with 80% of the rental charge applied toward a special purchase price of $1,300. Wag also offers a six-month rental of a C-band receiver for $700. These offers are available while supplies last.

The company also offers a new L-band receiver, engineered for upgrade to the WAAS signal, for use with its Vision System package. The WagStar DGPS, 12-channel receiver simultaneously provides 1 and 10 Hz signals, permitting the use of variable rate in application, or planting, and a guidance system at the same time. It requires just one cable to the control pad.

Jim Denton, Wag president, says the company's precision farming systems are designed to allow users to add functions and technology as needed. "You can start out with the WagStar receiver, then add the CPM control for data recording without guidance," he says. "Or you can expand that by adding the approach lightbar, or expand beyond that with the Vision System to add soil sampling, yield monitoring, or variable rate input for seeding or fertilizer or chemical applications."

Price of the Vision System with the WagStar receiver is $11,200. Price of the WagStar receiver alone starts at $3,000. For more information, contact Wag Corp., Dept. FIN, 386 Hwy. W., Tupelo, MS 38801, 662/844-8478.

Remote display and logger

Now you can program and control any of Trimble's DGPS receivers and lightbar guidance systems remotely with the touch of a keypad with the new AgGPS 70 remote display and logger. The device, about twice the size of a handheld calculator, is mounted in the cab and can display up to two lines of text or 16 characters.

The remote display and logger also can be used to log where you have driven in the field or applied chemicals, fertilizer or seed varieties. "Farmers are getting more and more questions nowadays about when they applied chemicals and where," Trimble's Huber says. "This gives them a record of what has been done in the field."

The information is stored on a compact flash card, the same thing used in digital cameras, that the user can take back to the office and enter into a software package.

Suggested list price is $1,500 or $3,000 when sold with Trimble's new AgGPS PSO Plus (see below). For more information, contact Trimble Navigation.

Lightbar guidance

Staying on target. Trimble's AgGPS PSO (parallel swathing option) Plus combines Trimble's AgGPS 21 lightbar guidance system with its remote display and logger to allow you to set swath patterns, swath width, start point and end points for your vehicle to follow during the application of chemicals, thereby eliminating the need for foam markers.

Steering is guided by a lightbar, which consists of a row of lights that show how much to turn the steering wheel to the right or left in order to stay on your assigned path. It works with Trimble's AgGPS 114 DGPS to provide accuracy to less than one meter. "Our customers report that when they are driving down a line in the field and using these receivers for guidance, they are within 6 to 12 in. of the true line that they want to go," Huber says.

Lightbar guidance offers advantages over foam markers, according to Huber. First, it allows you to operate in low-visibility conditions. Second, it allows you to apply products 10 to 20% faster because you do not have to turn your head to watch whether you are following the line of foam extending 30 to 60 ft. from your cab and you do not have to stop and refill foamers.

Third, operators report getting up to 5% more coverage out of every tank of product applied because they have more confidence in the accuracy and do not feel the need to overlap the swaths to ensure adequate coverage, Huber says.

Suggested list price is $3,000, which includes lightbar, data display and logger, cables, sound alerts and software. For more information, contact Trimble Navigation.

Lighting the way. Wag's new Vision 2000 GPS guidance system provides accurate, dependable guidance for every precision agriculture application. Designed to accommodate multiple rigs in the field, the Vision 2000 allows you to continuously log field operations 10 times/sec. and create maps with the Wag Trac Map desktop software, which is included with the guidance system.

Wag's approach lightbar features six rows of LED lights, a choice of six guidance configurations and 16 brightness levels, and a choice of parallel, skip parallel, tandem parallel and continue patterns. The lightbar is designed to be mounted outside the tractor cab to improve peripheral vision and enhance safety of operation.

All Vision 2000 components, including the approach lightbar, are combined in three compact, durable components. Suggested retail price is $13,000 (a $3,000 cash discount from this price is available for a limited time).

Also available is the Vision G2000, which offers parallel pattern, two-job memory, and two latitude/longitude points. The Vision G2000 is fully upgradable. Suggested retail price is $8,000 (a $1,500 cash discount from this price is available for a limited time). For more information, contact Wag Corp.

Low-cost guidance. Satloc offers a new low-cost guidance system called LiteStar for both straight-line and countrour swathing guidance. Cost of the lightbar guidance alone is $2,000. The full LiteStar system with a GPS receiver retails for $4,500. Contact Satloc.

Tractor autopilot

For operators who want to take their hands completely off the steering wheel, Trimble introduces the AgGPS Autopilot for farm tractors. "The whole idea behind Autopilot is not necessarily to take the operator out of the vehicle," Huber says. "The idea is more like cruise control on your car. Except this is cruise control that keeps you driving on a straight, predefined path."

The device allows you to attend to jobs other than driving, such as monitoring implement or engine functions. And it permits you to operate the tractor 24 hours a day to make the best use of your capital investment.

Autopilot receives its primary location signal from up to eight GPS satellites simultaneously and its differential correction from a base station established on the farm. The signals are converted into real-time kinematic (RTK) position that is accurate to one centimeter horizontally and one centimeter vertically as the tractor is driving down the field. The signals feed into a controller that drives the vehicle by tapping into the tractor's steering system.

It is designed to work on leading makes and models of tractors. The company will begin marketing the product this fall. Price will be announced later this year. For more information on these products, contact Trimble Navigation.

Internet access

Data management. MPower3 now offers an entry-level, Internet-accessed data management service for storing precision farming data for manipulation and retrieval. Called nForm, the package allows growers and their input and service providers to enter and retrieve data offline. An nForm subscription provides database access through a confidential, password-protected Internet location within the mPower3 Web system. Subscribers can get reports on various aspects of each field's inputs, productivity and management. With the assistance of the dealer or mPower3 specialist, subscribers can query the database about numerous variables to help in field management decision making. Sale of nForm is based on a 12-month enrollment. Cost is $50/month. A weather data package, called nAble, also is available from mPower3 for $50/month. For more information, contact mPower3, United Agri Products, Dept. FIN, Box 1286, Greeley, CO 80632-1286, 877/676-9373.

High-speed service. San Diego-based Tachyon and Colorado-based mPower3 have joined together to market Tachyon's high-speed, two-way, satellite-delivered Internet access. with mPower3 integrated agricultural data systems will provide a global agricultural Extranet capable of linking growers, suppliers and markets.

This alliance will offer broadband Internet, Intranet and Extranet access to rural areas where high-speed traditional landlines and cable modems often are not available or cannot support needed service levels. With a price tag of about $1,000/month, this service is geared for businesses with multiple users at one site.

For more information, contact mPower3 at the address given above or contact, Dept. FIN, 5808 Pacific Center Blvd., San Diego, CA 92121-4204, 858/882-8100.

For a comprehensive look at the current and future products of precision farming, watch for a special section in our upcoming July/August issue.

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