Agriculture Technology Podcast Implement Guidance

Podcast Ep. 131 Implement Guidance [Listen]

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On this latest episode of the Agriculture Technology Podcast, Host Tony Kramer and Product Specialist Caleb Seger detail the differences between Active Implement Guidance and AutoTrac Implement Guidance.

Which is right for you and your operation? Tune in to Episode #131.


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.


Catch the full transcript here:

Tony Kramer: 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 episode of the podcast. This is episode number 131. Today, we are going to be talking about Implement Guidance.

I am really excited to welcome Caleb Seger, who is a product specialist with RDO Equipment. Caleb is also a returning guest. He was on the show a few episodes, a few seasons back in the Cab with an exact emerge planter. Really excited to get Caleb back on the show today. Caleb, why don't you just remind our listeners a little bit about where you came from and how you got involved in the industry and how you got to where you are today?

Caleb Seger: Thanks, Tony. Happy to be here. Like you said, I am ag product specialist. I'm based out of the Breckenridge and Fergus Falls, Minnesota stores. I guess a little background I've been to RDO almost three years here. Prior to that, I worked for another Deere dealer. Then just before that, I went to school and studied ag systems management. Quite a bit of background with Deere products. That's what we specialize in, is the precision ag and basically Deere products in general, as a product specialist with RDO.

Tony: Yes, absolutely. Thanks again for coming back onto the show and talking a little bit about Implement Guidance. Just to dive into it, what exactly is Implement Guidance?

Caleb: Implement Guidance, it is exactly what it sounds like. It's just guidance for the implement. As things get more and more precise, we got to try to make sure that implement is right where we want it to be.

Tony: Yes. Correct me if I'm wrong, Caleb, but we actually have two different ways to steer the implement. Is that right?

Caleb: Yes. There's two different methods. Naming-wise, we've got Active Implement Guidance, and then there's AutoTrac Implement Guidance which is our passive version.

Tony: Tell our listeners a little bit. Let's just start out Active Implement Guidance. How does that differ from AutoTrac Implement Guidance? Just tell us, what does Active Implement Guidance entail?

Caleb: Active Implement Guidance is where it all started. It's been around between the two different versions here. It was out first, and basically, we have, say, a steerable hitch, steerable axle, or coulters on the implement or right at the hitch to steer that implement or put it where it needs to be guidance-wise to match the machine.

Tony: With that one with Active Implement Guidance, you are physically steering the implement that you are pulling.

Caleb: Yes.

Tony: AutoTrac Implement Guidance, how does that one differ from Active Implement Guidance? I know you said it's a passive form of guidance. What makes that different from the first one?

Caleb: The implement itself is actually going to be following our guidance line. I'll say the tractor's pulling a planter. The tractor can drive off the line in order to make sure that implementer or planter stays on the line. There's no physical hitch or anything controlling where that machine is. The tractor is driving wherever it needs to be to maintain position on the line with that implement.

Tony: You're not necessarily, and I would imagine hydraulic down-force on planters is a big part of this, but you're not necessarily then running the tire tracks right down or in between rows. The tractor goes where it needs to go to make sure that planters are on the line, correct?

Caleb: Yes, exactly. It can do whatever it needs and drive wherever. When you think about when you would use this form of guidance versus active, anything that would be your first pass or it doesn't matter if you would run over, say, crop roses or anything, that's when passive would be a great option. Say you had a standing crop, like say, you had a tiller or something with ccoulters that were dustier and implement, then you would have to go with Active Implement Guidance, and that would make sure your machine, your tractor wouldn't be driving over rows.

It would just steer the implement. That's the big difference between the two is, usually it depends. We ask the customers, what are they going to use it for, and depending on if it's first pass or, say, second pass with standing rows, that makes a difference.

Tony: That's a really good way to put it, Caleb, and something I never really thought about that. If it's your first pass, if it's maybe a tillage pass or whatever, or it's your planter, you've done your tillage and now you're coming with your planter. With the passive or AutoTrac Implement Guidance, there's no need to stay within a specific row. That's a really good way to put it.

We've talked a little bit about what each one of them is, and you did touch on how or when you would use it, but what do we see out there in our trade area with the customers you work with? What are people doing in the field when they're using this technology? You mentioned planting. Are there any other times when AutoTrac or Active Implement Guidance would make sense for a customer?

Caleb: The most common one we have is on planters. The bigger an implement or planter is, the more the chance it might have a little bit of drift, especially, say, if it's going across a side hill or something. The most common requests for any kind of Implement Guidance, I guess, in our area, put the receiver on a planter, and then we've had good luck with the passive or AutoTrac Implement Guidance.

Like we said, it doesn't matter where the tractor drives, but it always keeps that planter right where it needs to be. Seen more stripped-till applications. A lot of the same thing, accounting for implement drift, and so passive has been the most common, but yes, in a stripped-till, or even any type of organic farming, I would say, if they have standing rows of crop and they have a field cultivator that has to run through and clean out in between the rows, that's when they would use Active Implement Guidance and they'd more than likely have a hitch controlling movement to the implement.

Tony: Yes. There's definitely uses for it in planting as well as in tillage or weed control, pest management situations. Now, I know you get some hills over there in the Fergus Falls, Minnesota area. Generally speaking, here in the Red River Valley of Minnesota, North Dakota, we don't have a lot of hills. I do know, I can speak for some of the other RDO Equipment locations out in the Pacific Northwest, Washington, Oregon, some of the Western North Dakota or central North Dakota, I guess you could say in our Bismark area, there's a little more terrain, up and down, there's a little more contour there, per se, that would make a lot more sense to utilizing Implement Guidance.

That's not to say like you said, you've seen customers with planters and strip-tillers and things like that. There is a place for it even in the flatter ground, the flatter areas. Now, we've talked a little bit about what each type of Implement Guidance is, we talked about when we could potentially use it during a growing season. What kind of compatibility is there, Caleb, when it comes to tractors implements, displays receivers? Is there specific pieces or specific components that can and can't be used when we're doing Implement Guidance?

Caleb: We've got our two types of Implement Guidance. In order to do Active Implement Guidance, we can either use a 2630 or Gen 4 Display. When we go to our Passive Implement Guidance, we strictly use Gen 4, so 4640, 4600 command center there on the tractor.

Tony: Then, with those displays, I would imagine there's activations of some sort that are needed as well.

Caleb: Yes. In order to do that, we would need our Implement Guidance activation for the 2630, and then it'd be an automation 3.0 activation on 4600, 4640.

Tony: Each one has its own dedicated like most other activations, whether you're using GS-32630 or one of the Gen 4 family displays. What about other pieces, the receivers, or the tools, or machines themselves?

Caleb: I just go to the next step. I guess receivers is the next thing we think of. We can either run it with a StarFire 3000 or StarFire 6000, as long as we've got the latest-- Currently available is 20-2 software on both receivers, and then we can run either one of those on the tractor or the implement, doesn't matter. We can run basically SF2, SF3, or RTK. The higher the accuracy, the better, so we definitely recommend RTK. At least one of the receivers has to have it in order to use the shared signal. That's one of the things to keep in mind. Compatibility-wise, if you've got a 3000 and a 6000, we can run them together.

Tony: That changed recently, correct? Because I believe before there was a specific way that you had to, whether it was the leader receiver or the follower receiver, such that the machine or the implement, you had to have specific receivers in specific places when you're using 3000s and 6000s, and that now changed?

Caleb: Yes. Prior to this 20-2 software update, yes. We had a lot more compatibility configurations to have to account for. Now, yes, it doesn't matter. As long as we got the latest software, it is much easier to set things up there.

Tony: Cool. Yes, that's something definitely to remember. As long as you have the 20-2 or the 2020 mid-season software, you have that one newer, then you don't have to worry about leader-follower. Now, you mentioned also shared signal. Explain to us real quick, what is shared signal and how does that benefit, or how can we use that with Implement Guidance?

Caleb: Basically, our shared signal gives us the ability. Say we've got one receiver that has a higher level accuracy than the other, we would basically be able to utilize that higher level of accuracy on, say, that one receiver rather than having to have two RTK receivers, we could have an SF2 or an RTK or SF3 and an RTK. That makes things a little easier. You don't have to buy two RTK receivers to do that.

Tony: Yes, definitely a little more cost-effective, you don't need to have both receivers now. There are some farms out there I know that have a number of RTK receivers or a number of SF2, SF3 receivers, but in order to do this, you could essentially put an RTK receiver on one of the pieces and a SF1 receiver on the other one, but you would get RTK correction on both, correct?

Caleb: If we did, say, RTK on one, and SF1 on the other, yes, RTK would be our overall system accuracy, yes.

Tony: Cool. Like you had mentioned, it makes it a little easier, a little more cost-effective for a customer. Is that all of the components we need, is just a receiver activations displays or there are other pieces to the puzzle?

Caleb: Depending on which type of Implement Guidance we're doing. Active Implement Guidance has a few more parts to it. It's a moving, say, hitch or steerable axle, so we have that component that we would usually need to add to the implement along with the John Deere app controller that would talk between our displays and receivers and talk to that steerable component, and then all the necessary harnessing to get us back to that receiver that we have on the implement.

A lot of times we have to have a mast as well built for that receiver, a good sturdy one there. Again, we only need a lot of that stuff for Active Implement Guidance. With the Passive Implement Guidance, the nice thing is that we really just need the harnessing and then the mast. We won't need that app controller or any of the steering components.

Tony: There, again, when we talk cost-effectiveness and, from what I'm understanding, everything is very specific to what you're going to be trying to do or how you are going to steer your implement, but the AutoTrac Implement Guidance is a very cost-effective, easy way to get into that implement guidance, especially if you're not second or third pass when you have standing crop.

Caleb: Yes, exactly. Much cheaper and then just easier option. Less moving components, and setup-wise, it's very easy.

Tony: I do know that you talked about the act of Implement Guidance, whether there's numerous options out there in the industry with steerable axles, side-shifting hitches, steerable hitches, steerable coulters on the front of the implement, things like that, lots of different options when it comes to that. Now, I know you work with a few customers that utilize some Implement Guidance. Tell us a story that you've got that it really helped the customer achieve what they were looking for and what they're doing with their Implement Guidance.

Caleb: Specifically, we've got a couple of customers actually called me for the same scenario and ended up doing the same solution. Common problem was a big planter had a little bit of drift. They had a few fields with hills and they were showing yield loss in those hills because of implement drifts. Either uneven emergence or hard for the sprayer to follow those rows. There was lots of different issues that can arise from implement drift.

We talked about our options there, and the easiest cost-effective way was to do AutoTrac Implement Guidance. Customer had almost all the components, we just needed to add the automation activation, and then a mast, and then a couple of wiring harnesses to throw that receiver on the planter, do our measurements for setup and that was it. That's the nice thing about the system is that it's a lot of plug and play. You put in your measurements, your offsets that you need for the implement, for the tractor, and it just works for itself. Customer's been very happy. I actually know once we got it all installed and went through things, we never heard about that again.

Tony: That's awesome to hear. Obviously, numerous different reasons to run implement guidance, whether it be uneven guess rows because you have implement drift with your planter, or this specific customer that you were talking about, saw some yield drag.

Caleb: One other thing, I guess, is we knew it was working because then the customer, he actually questioned for his next sprayer. He was like, "Now that I have Implement Guidance and my rows are straight, do I really need RowSense on the sprayer?" Because he said it seemed like it never actually needed it. That was pretty cool to hear that the Implement Guidance was right on the money there.

Tony: Yes, definitely. That's kind of eyeopening there that that customer was running AutoTrac RowSense on their John Deere self-propelled sprayer and starts questioning the need for that after he implemented AutoTrac Implement Guidance, a very cool story to hear that the reason for it and what sparked the conversation in that customer. Yes, awesome story. If somebody wants to learn more about Implement Guidance, where can they go? Who can they talk to?

Caleb: I guess if you're in RDO country, stop in the store, either talk to account managers or ask for a product specialist. Otherwise, anywhere else, your John Deere dealer would be happy to help you out.

Tony: Awesome. I just want to thank you, Caleb, for taking the time to sit down with me today, talk a little bit about Implement Guidance, the differences between the two offerings that we have, whether it be active with that steerable hitch, steerable axles or the AutoTrac Implement Guidance that you maybe have a little more experience with and driving the tractor off of the guidance line to make sure the implement stays on that guidance line. Thanks again for doing this and telling us a little bit more about Implement Guidance.

Caleb: Hey, thank you.

Tony: Thanks again for tuning into 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.