Why Reliability Equals Profitability in Farming Today
November 11, 2019
By Michael Bruno
If you have ever been ready to work in your fields, only to find your equipment isn’t working, then you know the importance of reliability.
There are many time-critical tasks in farming — you have to be ready to go when the time is right, whether that’s getting crops planted or spraying weeds in suitable weather conditions. If you miss the window of opportunity and have to wait another two weeks, it could damage yields, and ultimately hurt your bottom line.
Farmers therefore need reliable equipment and technology that can get the job done at any time.
Anyone who’s had to carry out fieldwork overnight can attest to the importance of reliable guidance. Using GPS like Trimble’s RTK services helps tractor drivers to navigate through
fields in the middle of the night when headlights only give vague direction.
Reliability required for better decisions
Unreliability can also affect data management software. If data syncing isn’t reliable, whether it’s due to the software used or unreliable 3G or broadband access, there’s a greater risk for errors. For example, if an agronomist is trying to send a prescription application to their customer’s tractor in the field and it’s not syncing properly, then the wrong prescription could be applied.
Problems can also arise if the collection of data isn’t reliable. For example, if a yield monitor isn’t properly calibrated then the yield data may be off, making it an unreliable source of information on which to base decisions for the next season.
For fertiliser and pesticide records, having reliable data from the application can be crucial in avoiding lawsuits.
Reliability means consistency and accuracy
Reliability isn’t just about equipment and precision ag services work when they need to — it’s also ensuring they’re accurate and consistent every time they’re used.
This was a big reason UK farmer Ben Clappison purchased Trimble’s >GFX-7050 display with CenterPoint RTX for working 1,619 ha of potatoes. Because his potato ridger is fairly narrow, Mr Clappinson has to make several turns in the field. He relies on NextSwath End-of-Row Turn technology to make tight turns on the headlands that he could never effectively do on his own, when especially working late into the night.
Mr Clappinson has also found that if he leaves a field, the guidance line is exactly where it was when he returns. Having consistent guidance lines is especially important when he’s forming his potato beds, because if they’re too wide, he will waste soil, and if they’re too narrow, he’s not maximising his yield potential.
Inconsistent guidance lines can also waste time as farmers attempt to correct errors, or it may cause yield losses due to them accidentally driving over the crop or missing plants during harvest.
Having repeatable results is an important component of reliability.
Improving reliability on your farm
If you already use precision precision farming techniques, there are a few steps you can take to determine their reliability, and in some situations improve it.
If you find that guidance isn’t reliable, it may not be the service but the steering equipment itself. Check that the steering system is working correctly in the steps listed here. You can also see how to calibrate your yield monitor, which will help ensure it’s collecting accurate yield data.
If you have a mixed fleet, you may find that communication between your equipment isn’t reliable because each piece is running its own propriety technology. In that case, you may need to change to equipment that has ISOBUS, the industry-standard communication protocol that allows ag equipment to communicate regardless of brand.
If reliable farm record keeping is what you are looking for, Trimble recently launched Farmer Core, an entry-level software subscription that connects all aspects of a farm operation. It includes AutoSync, which ensures data and information like guidance lines are shared across Trimble Ag software and displays. The software can also track purchases and costs by field, create proof-of-placement reports and keep precision ag data consistent. Click here to learn more about Farmer Core and other Trimble data management products.
— Michael Bruno is the Market Intelligence Manager for Real-Time Networks and Services (RTNS) within Trimble’s Advanced Positioning Division.