PRECISION Agriculture (PA), is set to continue its inexorable rise in WA this year.
That’s the opinion of Boekeman Machinery precision ag specialist Conor McGuckian.
And while he’s quick to qualify he’s only talking about his service “patch”, Torque agrees with his assessment for the WA Wheatbelt.
It is evident farmers are becoming more comfortable with PA and an increasing number are now ready to venture beyond the world of guidance and into telematics, mapping and predictive analysis using new software and mapping technology.
According to Conor, cost savings is the biggest motivator.
“In the Northam district, for example, about 90 per cent of farmers have some sort of guidance and many see the potential for cost savings with things like section control, rate control, variable rate applications (VRA) and data collection from cab displays to create farm maps,” Conor said.
“VRA already is going on with adoption by many of our owners of Marshall spreaders and some of our self-propelled boomsprayer owners.
“And it’s only going to grow.”
Conor is not worried about the current scenario of frequent signal drop-outs from an under-resourced telecommunications industry and an almost ignorance of the needs of ag by all governments.
“Technology is getting better with new cab displays and receivers having about twice the signal strength of current displays and receivers,” he said.
“And the satellite array will also get better through GPS (US Government satellites), GLONASS (Russian) and Galileo (Europe).
“So in effect, there will be an increase in channel selection for signals and I expect by about 2020, WA farmers will be able to confidently employ the latest technology, including telematics, without fear of signal drop-outs.”
Telematics, which is real-time communication, is already being adopted in WA, particularly by some machinery dealers using the technology for ‘live’ diagnosis of the machinery they sell.
In essence, telematics will become a future management tool for farmers, who will use it to monitor and manage staff and machines.
According to Conor, two issues arise with telematics.
The first is proprietary information, which is stored in the cloud, but with the potential for “outside eyes” to access it.
“Case IH ensures complete client privacy of data they collect and permission has to be obtained from the farmer before we can access his machine through telematics,” Conor said.
So it’s a bit like your modem.
If it’s not password-protected it’s vulnerable to being accessed.
The second point Conor makes is bureaucracy.
And this could be the biggest stumbling block to the adoption of telematics.
“I expect a lot of testing is going to go on involving authorities who want to make sure operator safety is being complied with, among other things,” he said.
But we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves here.
Telematics, per se, is useable now, with data going to the cloud.
So while it may not be real-time, data can be accessed by you from your iPhone, tablet or home computer.
Sensing a chance for a plug – Torque is a sucker for these – Conor switched the conversation to Case IH’s Accu-Turn.
Accu-Turn is software logic from the Case IH’s Autonomous Concept Vehicle (ACV) and once you’ve set your paddock boundaries and inputted what you are pulling behind the tractor, Accu-Turn will automatically figure out the optimum headland turning path based on current ground speed.
For up-and-back and controlled traffic systems, it generally involves a skip row pattern.
“I expect a lot more sales of Accu-Turn this year because of the positive responses from owners,” Conor said.
This will be his fourth year with Boekeman and it could be a big one for him if he plays his cards right.
Conor arrived in WA in 2010 on a backpacker’s visa and then gained a skilled visa working on a Condingup farm.
At Condy, he met the love of his life, Bec Wharram.
They are currently engaged and have a two-year-old daughter Matilda.
I know Torque readers can’t resist, but there will be no waltzing with Matilda just yet.