Investing in accuracy at John Deere to bring savings
John Deere recently opened its European Technology and Innovation Centre (ETIC) in Kaiserslautern, Germany. James Lane paid a visit to find out about the latest developments.
Whether you are a lover or hater, automatic steering, precision farming and yield mapping are here to stay.
One of the forerunners of such systems is John Deere, whose Agricultural Management Solutions (AMS) division has brought us everyday names such as GreenStar and StarFire.
Ten years since its launch, the US-firm claims it is the only manufacturer of agricultural equipment to build its own components, offering the StarFire correction network to its customers.
To aid the development of such systems, Deere has invested $10 million (£6.61m) in its Kaiserslauten European Technology and Innovation Centre (ETIC) venture, which joins two similar departments in the US and one in Asia.
Since AMS Europe was formed in 2000, it has grown from having just 15 employees to 80 today.
As part of AMS, Deere has introduced various new features to its portfolio, and has been working on increasing IsoBus compatibility for connecting its machines to those of othermanufacturers.
As Ralf Ulrich, John Deere’s marketing manager for Europe, says, the future is ‘i’ farming - Intelligent, Innovative and Integrated.
As rising inputs of fuel, seed, fertiliser and sprays correlate with pressure to adhere to best practices of sustainability and being eco-friendly, cross-compliance issues arise, and these need to be documented for food traceability.
With this in mind, developments have come in various sectors from Deere.
On the sprayer front, its ‘i’ sprayers now have Tank Fill Calculator (TFC), a system which according to Eric Teuwsen from John Deere’s Horst facility will prevent filling mistakes, reduce preparation time and record documents for each load and field - ideal for those with complex mixes used over wide areas.
The system calculates the proportions of water and chemical per tank and the amount required per field, before splitting it into individual sprayer loads. For example, in a 57-hectare (141-acre) field where the required tank mix is 11,400 litres, Tank Fill works out the chemical required for the two sprayer loads of 4,000 litres and one of 3,400 litres.
Data is printable, either in-cab by a thermal paper machine, and/or sent back to the office. It records what doses each field has had at what time, and allows for using partial tank loads via the digital tank load indicator.
Another new feature is a virtual headland function within the Sprayer Pro package, which allows a preset headland switch on/off, either dictated by working the headland and using the StarFire to programme it, or by allocating it using software in the farm office.
This means a 24 metre boom can be set to switch on or off at exactly 24m from the headland to avoid overlap of main spray bouts during turns.
Auto Dilute is also new, manages the controlled dilution of residual liquid in the sprayer after an application. Depending on the chemicals used and what is to be sprayed next, the operator can choose a preset programme to initiate the most
efficient dilution and rinsing process. This, says Deere, allows farmers to meet national legislation on the dilution of sprays.
On the steering front, further new innovations include the iGuide and iSteer systems. Both use RTK signals and the company’s StarFire network, but carry out differing roles.
The iGuide system is passive, and in layman’s terms provides a correction signal from a trailed implement to the tractor so the implement remains in the correct position.
A second RTK receiver is mounted on the implement, and measures the distance it is ‘out’ from the correct A-B line, a notable problem with automatic steering systems on cross hill land.
To demonstrate this, Deere pulled a 6m 740A drill across a field with an eight degree slope, both with and without iGuide on. The difference of each pass was around five rows of the drill, showing that for every pass, the drill without iGuide was around two-thirds of a metre downhill of where it should be.
Deere is aiming iGuide at large-scale farmers and contractors, suiting applications such as drilling and cultivation.
The company has a more active system called iSteer, designed in collaboration with Dutch-firm SBG Innovatie, which is best used with mounted equipment and requires at least one RTK receiver.
It can be used for applications such as weeding or bedforming, where a hydraulic ram can adjust where the implement moves to via a signal from a mounted receiver. Alternatively, a receiver on the tractor can be used to keep a plough in a constant straight line.
Working with a vari-width plough, all that is required is a control box for the width ram and a sensor on the vari-width parallel linkage next to the beam. From these two elements, the Greenstar display in-cab can control the system automatically.
It is as simple as putting your wheel in the furrow, dropping the plough and hitting the on button each time, and the plough maintains the A-B line.
It may have taken the fun out of making a nice straight furrow, but it proves to be more accurate than a driver can be.