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Technology bridges gap in information flow — July 26, 2012

Article from The Western Producer – July 26, 2012

Precision agriculture | Telematics system moves files between office and field with phones


Agintegrated is better known for delivering the technology that feeds precision agriculture systems than for its own retail products.

In the business since 2000, the company has seen its technology and that of others built into the precision agriculture tools that were developed with a silo approach that kept most companies’ software and hardware from playing well with others in the industry.

Duane Reese heads Agintegrated and said the Pennsylvania company knew that it could play a role in transferring data between systems and hardware, making it mobile using smart phones and computers as the conduit.

Reese said the more than decade old satellite location-fed technology that is available to farmers can do more than provide guidance for machinery. The easily harvested benefits of the technology were taken first, but the systems that grew around it also yield considerable benefits if given the opportunity.

“We watched the precision ag needle get stuck at 40 percent. It got too complicated and time consuming. Too disconnected to keep up adoption,” said Reese while attending the International Conference on Precision Agriculture in Indiana last week.

Raj Khosla of the Internal Society of Precision Agriculture says there are benefits even greater than reduced overlap of equipment, inputs and human resources and there are more ways to improve even those, if information can flow more easily between computer-driven systems on the world’s farms.

“Making better use of the technology will improve land use, reduce losses of expensive inputs and time. Those are things that put money into farmers’ pockets by making them more efficient,” said Khosla, a professor of soil and crop science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

This week, Reese and his colleagues at Agintegrated are releasing a product they call Onsite. It is a combination of internet-based, desktop computer software that connects to smartphones and tablet computers in the field via cellular signals.

Those mobile tools then can work directly with the computer in the office to move data files such as precision agriculture prescriptions, maps or even updates to farm machinery software and firmware.

The system works with mixed fleets of equipment, with older machinery or where technology has previously failed to bridge the gap between computers and machines. The key to that is a piece of $349 hardware that relays the data to and from the cellular smartphone via the Bluetooth signals. Named the Relay, the palm-sized device writes and reads data from USB memory sticks and compact flash cards that can then be attached to the computer consoles on the farm equipment. The telematic tool can send files as as-applied data or any other file format, including, for example, machinery error code reports. It sounds simple. But making the various technologies get along took the agriculture systems business more than a year, and that was after acquiring a smartphone development enterprise. The company’s tools also connect directly to some manufacturers’ hardware, such as those by Raven.

Through its Slingshot cellular modem, Onsite can move files directly to that hardware and return telematics information from machinery in the field. Using the Onsite application on the smartphone and its built-in GPS, or the typically more accurate one built into the Relay, the system can also place machinery, or at least the person carrying the cellphone, on a map and geo-fence them, sending alerts when they leave a prescribed area. It can also provide point-to-point directions for contractors applying products, harvesting or performing other tasks where land locations aren’t well or even known beforehand. John Fulton of Auburn University in Alabama says he hopes tools like this help improve data collection, including harvest yield information.

“If we can make it easier to get, then farmers might start to begin collecting the information and taking advantage of what it can give them,” he said at the Indianapolis event. Reese said the tool has applications for small and large operators.

“For the custom applicator this means being able to assign a unit without having to make physical contact and be assured the operator will end up in the right place,” said Reese. A chat feature and several other tools are built into the service, for which the company charges an annual fee of $499 with a $150 discount on the first Relay device. It also works with Satshot, iFarm, SST, Advisor and AgSync software.

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For more informations please contact:

Mike Santostefano – AgIntegrated