Podcast Planter Performance Upgrade Kids

Listen: Podcast Ep. 132 Planter Performance

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Understand how to make the most of your current equipment as host Tony Kramer and guest Bryce Knowlen discuss planter performance upgrade kits from John Deere.

Listen in and learn how growers can increase the level of technology without necessarily purchasing a new unit.



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. This is episode number 132.

Today we are going to be talking about planter performance upgrade kits.

I'm very excited to welcome back Bryce Knowlen. Bryce is a product specialist here with RDO Equipment Co. Like I said, very excited to get him back on the show. Bryce has actually been on twice. First episode was back in episode 27 when we were showcasing the 9RX with the 2730 ripper behind it. We were out in the field having fun.

If you haven't listened to that one, go back and listen to episode number 27. Bryce was also on episode number 63 when we were celebrating RDO, were celebrating its 50th anniversary. We had talked to a long-term employee and Bryce was gracious enough to share a story about that employee. He was on then as well. Welcome back to the show, Bryce. To get started, let's just remind people who you are, where you come from and how you got to where you are today.

Bryce Knowlen: Yes, thanks Tony. Good to be back. Like Tony said, I'm Bryce Nolan. I am a product specialist with RDO Equipment Company. I've been with the company for about eight and a half years now. I started up at the parts counter Morehead, Minnesota location. Did that for about three and a half years and then transitioned into a product specialist role and had been doing that ever since. A lot of background, a lot of things growing up farm-related. I've been around agriculture all my life and continue on with it. Really happy to be doing what I'm doing, and dealing with technology every day.

Tony: Awesome. Thanks again for doing this Bryce and sharing a little more information about some of the stuff you deal with on a daily basis. Getting into it, performance upgrade kits. We talk a lot within the John Deere portfolio of equipment, we can offer numerous different performance upgrade kits. Now, today in this episode, we are going to solely focus just on planter performance, upgrade kits. Starting out, Bryce, I just want you to explain to our listeners, what is a performance upgrade kit?

Bryce: Yes, so they changed the name-- John Deere changed the name here a couple years ago. I used to refer to them as retrofit kits. Going forward now, they are now performance upgrade kits. What we can do with these kits on planters specifically is we can update an older planter. Coming down to all the way back to 2005 and I'll get into compatibility a little bit later, but we have the ability to add new row units or components, other technology components onto an existing frame and make that planter brand new again from our meter standpoint.

Taking an old frame, old bar, turning that into a brand new planter, new technology electric drive, that type of stuff. That's what we're able to do with the performance upgrade kit today.

Tony: This is something, if a customer were interested in maybe increasing the level of technology or doing a little more with their planter, this is a potential solution they could go or use versus buying a brand new planter off the factory floor, or maybe even finding a new to them used machine. This is another route that they could also go as well. Correct?

Bryce: Yes, exactly. Just going back to the meters and brand new meters, and you mentioned looking at brand new planters, we all know what those costs. The ability to make a brand new planter out of an older frame is a big deal. Obviously, our row units is what's putting that seed in the ground. Making those components brand new wear parts, et cetera,that really adds a lot of value to the life of your machine.

Tony: If a customer were interested in a performance upgrade kit, I know you've talked about the row units, the meters, things like that, what exactly are the options or what can a grower get in a performance upgrade kit?

Bryce: Yes, for model year 21, John Deere has released some new components and some technologies for the performance upgrade kits. A lot of this stuff was not able to be purchased unless you have a brand new planter. Another big value selling point there. We have the option to put two different meters on, one of them being our ExactEmerge, which is going to be our brush belt system, our high productivity, high accuracy planter. We could also go with a MaxEmerge 5e, which is a MaxEmerge five units, but it's electronically driven just like our ExactEmerge.

Both electric planter systems is what we can put on for meters. Some of the other stuff we can put individual role Hydraulic Down Force. Looking out into the market and seeing Hydraulic Down Force becoming a very, very big game player, we have the ability to add that to an older unit now as well, our older system. For the guys that maybe have an older planter with spring system downforce. We can also go to active pneumatic downforce if they don't want to make the big jump all the way up to hydraulic. That's another option there.

Then some pneumatic Easy Adjust row cleaner. Right from the cab, we can adjust row cleaners, our depth, our pressures, how much material and product that that's moving out of the way before the Tru-Vee openers can place that seed into the seedbed. We can add those as well as pneumatic closing wheels. The ability to adjust our pressure of closing wheel in different soil conditions right from the cab as well. We're used to the spring tension where we've got the four or five settings on the back end, and having to get out of the cab and adjusting those, now we can do that all right from our screen in the cab. Some big units there.

Then also starting talking about some JD link stuff. Connect Mobile is a big game player, that's our ability to connect an iPad right to that planter and see row by row monitoring right in the cab as well. Along with that, we get the mobile row-unit runoff. Waking around the planter with the iPad in hand, we can test and run every single row-unit on that planter. Starting at number one all the way through 24, 36 [unintelligible 00:07:19] row units you have, we can go through and do a test stand on every single one of those and make sure that they are performing optimally before we even take the machine to the field. That's an industry exclusive there. That's a big game-changer as well.

Then SeedStar 3 HP or SeedStar 4 HP software. Really what that comes down to is what display does the customer currently have today. Do they have a 2630? Do they have Gen 4 technology or either a 4640 or 4600 in the tractor? How do they want to operate that planter? John Deere gives two options of software to be able to put on these performance upgrade kits.

Tony: What I'm hearing now, Bryce, is with everything that you explained, everything from the row meters to you talk Downforce Row Cleaners, those Easy Adjust Row Cleaners to be able to adjust from the cab, all of that, it's part of the package. You have the row-unit that I would imagine is your focus, we want to upgrade the technology of that row unit or that meter, I should say, the meter itself. All of that comes in. Now can you get some of these components a la carte? Can you pick and choose or does it have to be a big package? How does that work exactly?

Bryce: Yes, it depends on what direction each customer wants to go. We have the ability to pick and choose what we want on these. We don't have to deck the planter out if we don't want to, we can go real narrow with our options. The ability to add these different components on these older planters is becoming a really big deal. Like I said earlier, the cost of brand new machines is, as everyone knows, fairly high and cannot fit everybody's budget. This is another option for that. Yes, we can mix and match. We can do whatever configuration we want.

Tony: That's really what I was looking for is the fact that it's very customer-specific. It's very planter-specific. Talk to your salesman, talk to the people that you're working with on this, and make sure you get what's right for your operation. We talked about adding all of these different components, one of the things that I always question, of course, Bryce is the iron, the hardware that's already on that planter. Are we getting just the additional technology, a new meter, a new row cleaner, things like that or are we also replacing some of the iron and hardware? How does that all work with these performance upgrade kits?

Bryce: Good question. If we were talking three years ago, I would tell you, you're just getting the meter, for the most part, all the wear parts is going to be separate from this. Starting in model year '21 now, Deere release the fact of we are getting a new shank, we're pretty much getting everything from the bar back. We unbolt that row unit off of the existing planter and bolt the new one on, that is really what it comes down to.

You start looking at wear parts and some things like that, that get pretty spendy pretty fast when we got to do 24, 36 of them across the whole planter. We are now getting all brand new wear parts, these are assembled, ready to be put on right from John Deere. They're torque, they're spect, they are a unit that would be put on to a brand new planter if one was rolling down that assembly line.

The value there has become way higher. All new wear parts, like I said, bushings, all the gauge wheel arms, things like that, those main components that were out anyways, we're getting those all brand new. Becoming very popular. We've had a lot of conversations about them over the past couple of years and now to add this extra value in there. You start looking at it from an install perspective, too.

Before we were getting bits and pieces and parts and things here and there unassembled, now the ability to take a whole row-unit off of a crate and bolt that onto the frame, everything's torqued already, becomes way quicker install, a lot less labor to do it. Frankly, if a customer's handy enough, they can do it themselves.

Tony: It sounds like it's gotten much easier. A lot more components added into these performance upgrade kits like you said that when they first released and they were referred to as that retrofit kit, it was just a meter, there wasn't much or there wasn't anything for iron unless you were upgrading certain model year planters upgrading to an ExactEmerge, you'd get a new shank with that. John Deere has definitely made it easier for the customer, more cost-effective as well for the customer to get into these performance upgrade kits. Now I talk about cost-effectiveness and ease of purchase. As a customer, Bryce, how do I go about purchasing one of these performance upgrade kits?

Bryce: These performance upgrade kits are in the whole good system. Account manager salesman, obviously, wants you to talk to your local audio equipment dealer, product specialists, myself, whoever, but they are in the whole good system. We can sit down and go through what options you may or may not want on your particular planter. We can get you a quote and look at it in that form.

Tony: When you were talking about what comes with these and how it's the parallel arms back and everything, this truly is a full kit. It's not just a component bundle that you may get over the parts counter, correct?

Bryce: Yes, that is correct.

Tony: That can't stress enough to make sure you talk to the right people, you talk to your sales professional, you talk to a product specialist, your local John Deere dealership, local RDO if you are in our territory. Make sure you are going through the proper steps to figure out what exactly you need for your operation. Now, is there any success story that you have, Bryce? I know you've been involved in a sailor too of these performance upgrade kits for planters specifically. Is there any story you'd like to share about customers that have gone this route versus purchasing a new planter?

Bryce: Like Tony said, about two or three years ago, now we did end up selling a 48-row kit out of one of my stores. We were up against a competition, and I don't even need to say their name. I'm sure you can probably figure out what competition that was but in the end, the customer did decide to go with the John Deere system. The main reason was resale. One single word resale, and that's the reason he decided on a John Deere kit.

The biggest thing he was after in that kit was the IRHD. After we got it up and running and out in the field, I was riding in the cab with them and it was a wet spring. The tillage that was done right before the planter was moderate. You could see wheel tracks still in the field. They had a big wide track machine out there that made that tillage. If you watch the IRHD page right from the display, when we cross those passes where that tractor had been with a tillage, you could see those rows increase and decrease as we were.

It was almost like a heartbeat running across the screen. It was pretty impressive. That was one thing that the customer pointed out to me and said, "Look at this. This is unbelievable how fast this reacts to the compaction layers." That was by far the biggest thing that they saw the value in and then they, of course, like the five-year-old units that they put on as well. The IRHD that downforce system was something that they could not live without, and they were extremely happy that they made that decision.

Tony: That's an awesome example of looking for a specific component of a performance upgrade kit, in this case, the customer is looking for individual row hydraulic downforce. I would imagine, like you said, they were looking at the competition, that's a big strain on our part is some of the competition offers very easy performance upgrade or retrofit kits and now we offer that same kit. This story just goes to show that there's value in doing that, there's value in finding the solution that's right for your farm. Awesome to hear that story.

Great to hear the reason behind the performance upgrade kit, and then what the customer saw by adding that component and features. Bryce, you talked about all of the different components, what we can and can't get in these kits. My next question is, are there certain limitations to these kits? What is the compatibility when it comes to John Deere planters and a performance upgrade kit?

Bryce: There are some compatibility limitations but for the most part, we've covered most of the John Deere planters from 2005 and newer. Deere has added five different models this year and primarily those being some of the smaller 12-row units, three-point models, stuff like that. Technically speaking, 2005 and newer John Deere planters are compatible. Then also DB planters starting with model year 2012 on up.

The nice thing with Deere is what they've added as well is some custom configuration. What's that? They've added the ability for us to send a serial number in, send the information from what the customer wants, as he want an ExactEmerge, as he want a 5V, what other technologies does he want. Then they will look at those on a case by case basis and decide if that planter is fit to add a performance upgrade kit or not.

I've had some success with this in the past as well, but it is another big option if we have maybe a 2010 DB that's not compatible, we can send that off to custom, and Deere will take a look at it and see if it is compatible or not.

Tony: There, again, just the ease or the willingness to work with the customer, figure out what makes sense and what's right. Few limitations when it comes to compatibility. We don't go to some of that much older equipment, but here we are in 2020 and we're still going back to 2005, 2012, depending on what your frame is. There is quite a bit of compatibility there, and it's definitely a solution or can be a solution for the right customer and the right farm.

Bryce, if someone wants to learn more, maybe talk about, maybe they're interested in a performance upgrade kit for their planter, whether it be for the upcoming 2021 season, I don't know what ordering looks like so I don't know what you would get or how soon you would get it, but maybe someone's looking at something for 2022. Either way, if they want to learn more, where can they go? Who can they talk to?

Bryce: Yes, by all means, talk to myself, get ahold of me, go into your local RDO Equipment dealer and/or your local John Deere dealer. Talk to a salesman, they should have the information they needed to help you out, as well as as well. They will have information on performance upgrade kits on there.

Tony: Great. Thank you very much, Bryce, again for sitting down with me, coming back onto the show. I always welcome return guests. You guys make it easy on me because you've done it in the past. Thanks, again, for doing this in talking planter performance upgrade kits.

Bryce: You bet. Thanks, Tony.

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.