Farm Progress

Precision spraying takes on a new meaning as more companies offer ‘digital’ spraying tools. Called pulse-width-modulation, just what benefits do these systems offer?

Mark Yontz, Contributing Editor

October 26, 2015

2 Min Read
<p>Sprayer precision is growing more important with the rise of specialty products, and the need for more consistent performance across a field. Pulse width modulation offers benefits.</p>

In our October story focusing on about how more farmers are looking to upgrade versus buy new machinery for their operations, we explored, in short, the idea of pulse-width modulation spraying. This month, we dig into one system to give you more information about how these tools work on the farm, and the benefits they can offer.

Commonly referred to as “digital spraying” or “pulse-width modulation (PWM) spray tools,” today’s high-tech sprayers rely, in part, on advancements in spray nozzle technology, which allow for much more accurate applications.

One of the newer tools on the market is the Hawkeye Nozzle Control System produced by Raven Industries — The system offers a wide range of advanced functionality to most sprayers.

Beating drift

“Instead of having a standard system with an on/off function at the section level, our Hawkeye product allows you to not only determine how often the PWM valve will open to control the flow at each tip, but the system also monitors and controls the pressure, which is a contributing factor in drift reduction,” explains Nick Langerock, a product manager for Raven. “In the end, the product allows you to use flow and pressure as control metrics, which gives you a larger operating speed range during application, while maintaining consistent droplet size.”

As Langerock points out, in older sprayer technology the pressure is directly affected by the speed of your application vehicle. While applicators have found ways to make this work, it’s also imprecise and comes with a number of downsides. However, every sprayer tip in the Hawkeye system comes equipped with a mini-computer, which controls each PWM valve at the tip, avoids overapplication in multiple zones and provides more consistency in coverage.

“We provide a hardware package that provides better control systems and features, but we’ve chosen a software upgrade path for end users,” explains Langerock, who says Raven’s system is compatible with most original equipment manufacturers.

Costs explored

What about the cost of the system and the return on investment (ROI)? For growers and ag retailers, alike, these are certainly important factors when adopting anything new, but Langerock says some people are also looking at the technology as a way to get ahead of speculations about future chemical application regulations coming, due to environmental concerns.

To some extent, Langerock believes technology is actually outpacing the willingness and desire of the marketplace in some areas. Nonetheless, he says you still have to prove ROI to end users and demonstrate a cost savings over the long term.

“A new Hawkeye system can be installed in about half a day and can cost anywhere from $18,000 to $30,000. How much you spend just depends on the boom width and nozzle spacing,” Langerock says.

Yontz is a freelance writer from Urbandale, Iowa.

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