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Agriculture Technology Podcast Episode 135

Listen: Ep. 135 StarFire Updates for 2021 [Podcast]

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Important changes are happening to StarFireTM receivers early this year.

All StarFireTM models are affected by these changes, and on our latest episode of the Precision Ag Technology podcast, host Tony Kramer is joined by Brent Horner to talk about what you need to do before – before you jump in the tractor this spring.

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Each month, we share the latest in agriculture technology. Don’t miss an episode by subscribing to our podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Have a story idea or a precision ag topic we should highlight? Connect with us on social media:  Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Twitter and connect with podcast host, Tony Kramer on Twitter at: @RDOTonyK.

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Catch the full transcript here:

Tony: Hi. I'm Tony Kramer with RDO Equipment Company. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Agriculture Technology Podcast.

Welcome back to another podcast. This is episode number 135. Today, we are going to be talking about some star fire receiver changes that are taking place.

Now with that, let's get back to the show. I am very excited to welcome back a guest that we had had on the show previously, Mr. Brent Horner, who is a product specialist supervisor for RDO Equipment here. Thanks for joining us on the show again, Brent. To get started, let's remind the listeners who you are, where you come from and how you got involved in the industry and where you are today.

Brent: Thanks for having me back, Tony. Just a little bit about myself, I've been in the Ag industry here for about 12 years. I worked with a dealership on central Minnesota for a few years. I've been here with RDO Equipment for about 10 years working in the same field. Most of my career has been in precision Ag. Here at RDO Equipment, I'm a product specialist working with all the technology and agriculture.

Tony: Coming out of college, you dove right into the precision Ag and went to a few different places. There you are out in the Bismarck area or Western North Dakota stores that we refer to them as here at RDO. As you stated, the precision Ag has been your path the whole time, so definitely a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience around all of these 12 years in the industry, and seeing all these receivers come and go and the progression of everything. It's fun to talk about some of this stuff.

The subject matter that we're actually going to talk about here, that I'm going to ask you a few questions on, Brent, is a little more serious. It's not super fun, but we want to get this information out there. We want our listeners, our local growers and any farmer out there, we want you guys to know what's going on with the StarFire receiver changes. To get started, Brent, when are these changes happening?

Brent: The changes are going to happen. Really, there's an effective date of the 1st of February. It's really a pretty important change that's going to happen. As you said, it's going to affect all growers that are using the StarFire receiver. What's going to happen on the 1st of February is there's going to be a change to how the StarFire network sends out its differential corrections to the receiver. What are the StarFire corrections? Just to clear it up a little bit, when our StarFire receivers receive a signal, they'll be in a different accuracy level, either SF1, SF2, SF3, or RTK. In order to get that level of accuracy, we have to receive those differential corrections from the StarFire network. After the 1st of February, how that's broadcasting will be changed.

Tony: That is what is causing this change with the receivers moving forward is they need to be able to bring in those corrections in order to do anything. Correct?

Brent: Correct. In order for one of our receivers that to auto track, as per regulation or stipulation on auto track is that we have to be at a level above a WAAS signal. Once we get past the 1st of February, some of our receivers will only be capable of receiving a WAAS signal. In that case, they won't be capable of auto-tracking. You're automatically steering a machine down the field.

Tony: Okay. That brings me to my next question, Brent. You mentioned that all receivers, all StarFire receivers will be affected by this change, starting with the older models there. I know there's still some of the old high hat Gen2, the big old bubbles that some people call them. I know there are still some of those out there. Then I know there's also a big change with the ITCs. What's going to happen with those old receivers come February 1st?

Brent: After the 1st of February, when that change takes place, those receivers will no longer be able to receive the correction from the StarFire network. That means that they will only receive a WAAS signal. In that case, they won't be capable of auto track, they won't be able to be capable of steering a machine down the field. They will still be able to receive a WAAS signal. They may have a limited use, very limited use for a speed source or to document some process, but that documentation also be at that lower accuracy level. Those receivers really essentially will be unusable after the 1st of February.

Tony: Okay. That was the question that a lot of people ask is, are they just going to turn off/power off, be done? You answered that question that may be in a light bar situation with WAAS signal or documenting or speed source, something like that, it will still be capable of doing some very limited, simple functions. Correct?

Brent: Absolutely. When you plug the receiver in, it'll still power up, it'll still attract satellites, it'll do all those functions. The only thing you'll see is instead of getting that SF1, SF2, or RTK signal, you'll be stuck at that WAAS signal level.

Tony: Okay. That being said, Gen2 receivers, the StarFire ITC, make sure you get those taken care of you. You make sure they get upgraded on your farm, your operation, because essentially, they will not be usable to auto track come the 2021 farming season here. Now moving forward a couple generations, StarFire 3000 and StarFire 6000. What's going to happen with these receivers come February 1st?

Brent: It's very important to talk about it, Tony. We have some customers out there that think that only the StarFire Gen2 and the ITC receivers are being affected, but all models are going to be affected in one way or another. The StarFire 3000 and StarFire 6000, they will continue to work going forward, but they will require a mandatory software update done to them before use, so that they can receive those differential corrections. We need to get that software update done, to position them, to receive those differential corrections after that date.

Tony: Is it the same software update for both of them? How do we know we've had that software update or we're on current software?

Brent: Each one of them is going to have a different version that they're going to. As we've talked through this, we always talk about making sure that your receiver is past the 20-2 software update. Just to expand on that a little bit, John Deere has gone to a process of three software updates per year. In 2020, we had 20-1, which came out in the March timeframe, 20-2, which was released in August, and then 20-3 just came out here in December. The 20-2 update and forward, so 20-3. When 21-1 is released, all three of those will have the latest version for that StarFire 3000, 6000. They are both a different version, but as long as you updated it, at least in August of that 20-2 version, you should be good to go for this spring.

I had a lot of questions related to, if I don't get it done before February 1st, am I in trouble? The answer to that is no. It's not dependent on being done before the 1st of February. Really, if you think about it, it needs to be done before you plan to use it or before operations. You can update it now. You can update it February 1st. You can update it April 1st if that's the day you're going to start. Just remember, when you get to the field, if you haven't updated, you won't have auto track.

Tony: What are the two versions of software that are going to be out there for the 3000 and 6000? You had mentioned that the 20-2 software. I do know that there are actual software versions within those bundles. What are those software version numbers?

Brent: You'd be able to find out the version on the receiver, and either case, you'd be able to go to the diagnostic button and find your current version. The latest version for the StarFire 3000 is going to be 2.80 S, and the StarFire 6000, the latest version there is 4.40 P. As long as you're at that version or beyond it, you should be set to go for spring.

Tony: The reason I asked that question, sometimes people can get confused. Brent had mentioned, if you go into the receiver, your StarFire receiver on your display, you select your diagnostics and you look for your software version. It's not going to say 20-1, 20-2. It will be an actual software version. StarFire 3000 owners look for that 2.80 S or newer, and then StarFire 6000 owners, it's that 4.40 P.

Now, the next question I've got, Brent, and I'm sure a lot of other listeners do is, what are the next steps for growers? How do they get this update? What do they need to do if they're unfamiliar with the process? How can these growers move forward to make sure that they have no downtime come the 2021 growing season?

Brent: Very important to cover, as we've talked about it. We've done this before. Right, Tony? We've had changes to how we receive signal from our StarFire network. In a lot of those cases before, we were able to just change a number in the receiver and get our customer up and running. In this case, that update is going to be required, so there is no workaround. The solution to this is to make sure your receiver has the update before you get to the field.

First thing to do would be to visit stellarsupport.com. The software updates are there available for the customer to download, if they choose to do it that way. If there's any questions out there surrounding the receiver update process, what's happening, what's changing, visit your nearest RDO Equipment or your local John Deere dealer. Talk to somebody there about it. Certainly, we can get you on the right path.

Tony: If I heard you correctly, this is something that the customer can take care of themselves, or if they're not comfortable, or they may be a little confused, they can stop in to their local dealer and they can walk them through the process?

Brent: Yes. There's an opportunity for our customers to visit that stellarsupport.com website. There is opportunity to download the update from there on their own and update their receivers that way. We've also got some machines that are enabled with JD link. If they have all the right subscriptions and hardware, those customers would actually be able to update their receiver over the air. Beyond that, any questions, certainly a stop to your nearest RDO Equipment or whatever your local dealer is, and we can get you headed in the right direction.

Tony: That wraps that up, answered my last question. Is there anyone else? Where can people go? Who can they talk to learn anything more about this situation?

Brent: If there’s questions, certainly talk to a product specialist, talk to your account manager. We've got a lot of the guys at the stores here educated on what's going on. Certainly stop in, let us know.

Interviewer: Thank you very much, Brent, for taking the time, just a few minutes out of your day here to talk about the StarFire changes that are going into effect come February 1st of 2021. I know it's a lot of stuff to take in, and it's stuff to make sure that we get done before the season, so we don't have any downtime. Thanks for coming on the show again, Brent, and sharing this information.

Brent: Thanks for having me, Tony. Any way we can help to get the information out there, I'm certainly willing to do it.

Tony: Thanks again for tuning in to another episode. If you have questions about the technology and products discussed or have ideas about future episodes, please leave them in the comments below. You can also subscribe to RDO's YouTube channel and be in the know about each episode, or tune in on any streaming service. Thanks again for listening.