Increase mixing speeds. Increase accuracy. These were challenges that many growers were facing – and they came to SureFire Ag Systems for a solution.
QuickDraw is an automated spray tender system engineered by SureFire Ag Systems.
In Part 2 of our conversation with SureFire Ag Systems, host Tony Kramer and guest Blaine Ginther talk more about spray systems and solutions.
Related Episode: SureFire Ag Systems, Part 1
Check out past episodes and guests – visit the Episode Archive.
Tony Kramer: Welcome back to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 97 and we are going to pick back up with our conversation with Blaine Ginther of Surefire Ag Systems and talk more about the product offerings that Surefire has. If you have not listened to the first part of this episode, I would encourage you to go back to episode number 96, where we got to hear about Blaine himself, where he comes from, as well as the start of Surefire Ag Systems. The one product we touched on, the Liquid Application System that is very near and dear to the Surefire Ag family because it where they got their start. So go back, listen to episode 96, catch back up with us here on episode 97 and we'll dive back into the show and learn more about Surefire Ag and the products that they offer.
The next product that I want to talk about is something that you guys are seeing increased take rates on is the QuickDraw system. It's a very neat system. I understand the theory of it, but you will definitely explain it way better than I could, Blaine. Why don't we talk a little bit about the QuickDraw system?
Blaine Ginther: To put it in it's simplest form, QuickDraw is an automated spray tender system that's been wholly designed in-house. Again, going back to that 5-year time frame, we knew we needed to diversify our product offering and we had a lot of customers who asked us to help them increase their mixing speeds, make that more accurate, and so QuickDraw addresses that. To give you a visualization, it's about the size of a tote. It mounts a lot of times on trucks. It can mount stationary but a lot of times it's on a nurse truck out in the field that might have a large tank of water or fertilizer as a carrier and then a variety of totes on the truck for the chemical.
The way that the QuickDraw works is, we a have an iPad app, where you go in, you create those recipes on the iPad and the iPad will connect up with the QuickDraw controller. At that point, you will be able to choose your recipes that you want to apply. It simplifies it down to, you basically go and turn your pump on, once your recipes is chosen you hit start and you stand back. That system will follow the recipe that you loaded into it and that might be a preload of carrier, let's say 200 gallons. Then it will start mixing the chemicals in the order that you asked it to mix.
We use a mass flow meter in the QuickDraw. The mass flow meter is something that's used in the food and beverage industry, the oil and gas industry. It's a Micro-Motion flow meter so it's one of the higher end flow meters available. We chose to do that because we can't put a product out where we think we are going to be accurate. We need to know that that's going to be accurate. With our software enhancements and the ability to communicate with the flow meter, we know when we have error in the line. We maybe sucking a tote dry, we can actually give a notification on that.
With QuickDraw, what we've seen in terms of the reasons that people will buy that QuickDraw is, it's a closed system, you don't have to be in constant contact with the chemicals. Then also, we have an unparalleled accuracy, plus or minus a half percent on that flow meter. Also the speed in loading, that's big. We are able to load a 1,200-gallon batch very commonly in eight minutes and that could be a lot of times, take 20 minutes, 30 minutes. We talked to a gentleman yesterday that was 45 minutes mixing a batch for his wheat.
The gain there is you're going to have a lot less hours on your sprayer, idle time and the economics pay off. We can take a 120-foot boom and essentially turn it into a 175 boom and allow you to apply your products in a more timely fashion or get over more acres or have more free time. We know all of those are benefits.
Tony: Yes. They are not only the efficiency but they can also like you said, the closed system, not coming in contact with the products all the time. We are talking safety and efficiency. The QuickDraw system really has a list of benefits in its own. Another product that you guys offer, similar to the QuickDraw system but more so focuses around irrigation. Let's talk about the Marksman a little bit.
Blaine: Sure. Marksman is a fertigation and chemigation system with remote connectivity. It also is a flow-based system. What you see a lot of in the market is fertigation and chemigation has not evolved a lot over the years. There are a lot of pumps out there that are just pumps. Growers will go and set those to a specific stroke setting and you walk away and you hope it applies the right amount. Most times that happens but we've evolved to a point where now if we take what we use in our flow-based systems for liquid application on planters. Now, when we are doing something in irrigation, where everything is happening a little bit slower, it's really not that challenging to dial in on a rate with Marksman.
You basically have a controller and a VFD and again a flow meter, the electromagnetic flow meter and a pump or we have a no pump where we actually we would put a poll stamp around an existing pump and add control to that existing pump. With Marksman, there is a web portal that we've created. The web portal gives you the ability to remotely monitor control change rates and that type of thing with Marksman.
It also sends you text alerts if it's off rate. We have the ability to shut down the pivot if something goes wrong, say a plugged filter, or something like that we can't get to rate. We also have the ability if the pivot stops, we would shut the Marksman off as well. That's an open API as are most of our products. We like working with the technology that growers have.
With Marksman, that's a product that we've known that fertigation and chemigation haven't evolved a lot over the years. Our focus has been to bring automation to that application. We do that with flow control much like our liquid application systems but this is in more of a stationary sense. Yes, we have a pivot moving but it's moving a lot slower. We bring a controller and a VFD and a pump into the mix and a flow meter. We use the same electromagnetic flow meter with Marksman as we do our Liquid Application System.
Again, not a lot of moving parts with that system. It's very reliable and we also have the ability to web interface with that, log the products that are being applied, send out text messages when we can't hit a rate or if there's problems such a plugged filter and that type of thing. You're immediately notified of problems. You also have the ability to go in and change rates remotely which is a huge advantage.
Another thing that we've built into Marksman is the ability to monitor the water flow and in some markets, that's been a very big thing. If you do have a pulse output flow meter on your water, we can both measure that and then we can also proportionally control the fertilizer based on the water output. With that, well, we think of corner arms, where the arm opens up and we are applying more water than we were when it was closed. We would apply more fertilizer to the corner arm area and then when it folds up, we would drop our fertilizer rate back.
There's huge, huge savings on that as much as 40% fertilizers savings. You're starting to see a little bit more being done on variable rate irrigation. If you have nozzle control and a VFD on your pivot, we're able to scale back that fertilizer output based on those systems as well. It gives you full control in an area where in the past it's, "Walk away and hope that it happens correctly." We can guarantee it'll happen right and provide a lot of money savings at the same time.
Tony: Yes. I know myself traditionally thinking, irrigation, it's an old school manual process. You start up that pump, you crack the valve, you do what you need to and you let it go, but there's so much more technology evolving and being introduced into the irrigation industry. Blaine, the last product I want to talk about here is another form of Sentinel, but it's the Sentinel NH3 system.
You guys have started to dive into the NH3 Anhydrous market a little bit. Let's talk a little bit about Sentinel NH3.
Blaine: Sure. One of the things we know on Anhydrous is, a lot of times we're running underneath the ground, and it's easy to get a blocked tube on Anhydrous, a frozen tube. We've taken a Sentinel framework that we use for liquid and it's a different type of sensor. It's a temperature sensor that goes on each row, but we're running that on our ISO Sentinel framework.
In the cab, you're able to see those temperature changes on each row. We're continually evolving this product to turn that temperature information into flow information. In this past year, we put about 20 Sentinel NH3 systems out in the field. Got along great, got great feedback from growers. We just know there's going to be a lot of ways to enhance that product over time.
There's not a great Anhydrous monitoring system on the market that runs via the ISOBUS that can be shared across different precision Ag platforms. We're very excited about that. It's another way, just like with our Sentinel system, that you learn about the health of your application system and you're able to correct changes, correct problems and make changes as you go.
Tony: Yes, you guys have such a great line of products, the different offerings within liquid application, that QuickDraw system that increases the efficiency and safety of those tender truck drivers, water truck drivers, but also we talked Marksman and this new Sentinel NH3 is really exciting to hear about. With all of those products that are out there and the time you guys have been in business, there's got to be some sort of a success story that you'd like to share with our listeners.
Maybe it's about one of the products or one of the customers or dealerships that you work with. What could you share with us there, Blaine?
Blaine: Sure. Yes, there's a lot of things that come to mind when you bring that up. I think one particular area I'd like to focus is in the Pacific Northwest and specifically with RDO. That has been a very rewarding relationship. With that and the evolution of Greenstar rate control, when I first started traveling up there, there was a lot of brown box control going on eight years ago.
I feel like we were able to help pull that along in that particular area and since that time, we've had a lot of the RDO locations take ownership and work with us. With the evolution of the RC 2000 and the potato market up there, we see you guys connecting RC 2000 to control the population rates of the potatoes, to control one or two liquid fertilizers and even a fungicide on the back. There are a lot of things going on with that system. You add Sentinel into the mix and the guys up there have been super good about integrating everything and just providing a great grower experience. Yes, that one stands out among many others.
Tony: That's a great success story to hear that how Surefire Ag Systems works with the Pacific Northwest and more specifically some of our RDO locations out there. If somebody wants to learn more about the great portfolio of products you guys offer, where can they go, who can they talk to to learn more about Surefire Ag Systems?
Blaine: Sure. One of the ways is, we work with most of the John Deere dealers across the country, other high-level precision application companies and then, of course, our website surefireag.com. There's a "Request a quote" button. There's a lot of information there. Our YouTube channel has a lot of great videos on our products. Then on the website, we give you the contact information for our territory managers, where we do have a territory manager across the US, in all the regions.
A lot of resources there. We like to educate and build relationships. We like people to have an experience like they haven't had with liquid fertilizer and with filling and sprayer and with fertigation and chemigation. We really think we can change that whole dynamic of experience that people have had.
Tony: I just want to thank you, Blaine, for taking the time to sit down with me today and really talk about all of the different products that Surefire has to offer. It's cool to hear the background story and how the company got started and everything you're working on, from the very beginning with liquid application all the way up to Sentinel NH3 and what you guys are doing there. Thanks again for sitting down and doing this.
Blaine: Yes, and thank you very much, Tony. It's been my pleasure. We really appreciate the relationship that we have with RDO. Thank you.
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