Guidance Tools Stay Hot

Differing opinions, but retailers say guidance sells well.

Published on: May 2, 2007

Drive up and down your road. Count off a dozen farm operations that you know something about. How many of those, including yours, have at least one guidance assistance tool in your operation? That's anything from a lightbar for manual guidance on a sprayer to RTK auto-steering, with all the bells and whistles.

As spokesperson for one major equipment manufacturer said last week that their survey data shows that less than one out of four of you have such equipment. But the folks out where the rubber meets the road- the ag chem equipment people selling the equipment to farmers, paint a different story. They insist guidance is still a hot sell. And they report that nearly every company in the market continues to come out with either brand new products, or upgrades of earlier versions.

Tim Miller with Agro-Chem, Wabash, Ind., offers equipment from three makers to his farmer customers. The chemical equipment supply dealership carries Outback, Mid-Tech and Raven lines. Only the market continues to evolve so fast that it's hard to keep up with the names. Recently, Outback switched its name to Hemisphere GPS. You can still expect to hear and see the Outback name for some time, however.

Outback offers both an older and newer lightbar product, Miller says. The original Outback S is still available, but so is the Outback 2. :The company just issued an updated version of the model S, and we suspect it will be the last version for that product," Miller says. "The upgraded model comes with improved contour guidance capabilities and the ability to move the 'A-B' line more easily."

Not all precision farming products are an instant success. Outback offered a hitch-mounted GPS guidance unit at one time. Its purpose was correcting for implement drift. But rather costly for what it did, it never caught on and is no longer in the line-up.

The 2.51 version of the Edrive auto-guidance system is the latest from Outback, and it features smoother steering and the ability to drive on the contour, Miller says.

Trends common in the rest of the ag equipment market are apparently creeping into the precision farming line-up of electronic-based equipment. If you want Baseline HD, the newest RTK base station form Outback, you'll need to plan ahead, Miller says. They're not carrying any inventory of this unit. Instead, they order online, and the product is shipped directly from the manufacturer to the farmer buying the product.

Not everyone needs RTK accuracy, Miller notes. But if you want to run an 18-row planter and 8-row head, for example, it will pay for itself quickly in reduced frustration, if nothing else. RTK guidance is also the system of choice for strip-till operations where a tillage and fertilizer application pass is made in the fall, then the operator plants back on the small ridges made during that pass in the following spring.