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Performance Upgrade Kits Are ‘Gifts That Keep on Giving'

Performance Upgrade Kits Are ‘Gifts That Keep on Giving'

29 Apr 2024 Author: Erin Hightower Read time: 4 min

Recently, my sister gave me an ice cream maker. To be honest, right away, I was perplexed. Allow me to back up for a moment. I love ice cream but grapple with a handful of food allergies that make it tricky. I’d hunt for the latest allergen-free options at the store, and sure, sometimes I’d have to toss them out, either because they weren’t quite as allergen-free as promised or because they just weren’t any good. But, suddenly, equipped with this ice cream maker, I could create a safe-to-eat from scratch with ingredients I trusted. The ice cream maker — paired with a worldwide web’s worth of creative recipes — is like my after-dinner performance upgrade kit. This desert-making upgrade is well worth the spot earned on my counter, even if I initially didn’t see its value. Like the ice cream maker, a few equipment Performance Upgrade Kits can provide an array of gifts that will have a farmer going from “I don’t know if I need this” to “I can’t believe I lived without it.”

What is a Performance Upgrade Kit (PUK)?<

In agriculture, Performance Upgrade Kits (PUKs) provide the benefits of the latest and greatest machinery without the commitment and price of an entirely new machine. When compared to 2020, the purchase prices of “new-to-you” (used) tractors with low hours have increased by about 30%, according to several articles. So, farmers across the U.S. have good reason to take advantage of PUKs' increased efficiency without a significant investment. Like my appliance, they received unexpected and invaluable gifts from purchasing PUKs.

The Gift of Ease

When farmers purchase upgrades for their existing tractors, the next hurdle is installation and setup. Once, I worked with a sole proprietary farmer. If a tractor moved, it was because he was in the seat. When I met with him, he shared his system.

He invested in a technology bundle consisting of one SF 6000 GPS Receiver, 4630 Display and one JD-Link™ Modular Telematics Gateway (MTG). Still, he used this one kit for his entire fleet. Each night, he would uninstall his SF6000, 4640, and MTG R Modem from that day’s tractor, toss them into a reusable bag, and have them all packed and ready to be quickly installed in the cab of the tractor he’d need for the next day’s activities.

With the wiring permanently installed in his tractors, the ease of installation allowed this farmer to enjoy the benefits of a fully connected fleet — like automated data collection that feeds into farm management software (FMS) — without extra costs. Opting John Deere Operations Center ™ (John Deere's FMS), this farmer didn’t have to worry about losing vital data points for the coming seasons. The ability to install or uninstall this PUK’s connected equipment made it possible for this farmer to use it to its fullest. Without the ability to quickly and easily install, the connected equipment could have been regulated to one tractor, missing the opportunity for accurate data collection.

The Gift of Productivity

Another farmer I worked with owned two identical John Deere planters. I had the chance to work alongside other RDO Equipment Co. team members to install the ExactEmerge™ PUK on one of the planters while leaving the other alone. We then conducted field tests between the planters to identify ExactEmerge's efficiency. The upgraded planter achieved a planting speed of 2.7 miles per hour faster than the other, covering an additional 8.7 acres per hour. After the field's crop emergence, we observed almost 1661.4 more seeds emerging per acre from the field where the upgraded planter was used, despite both planters being set for the same population.

The absolute best part of this? Because he could get more work done faster with the upgraded planter, the farmer finished his day earlier to attend his 12-year-old son's baseball games. Even in the best conditions, the ability to carve out time for family moments like these becomes invaluable, and that becomes even clearer when field conditions are more challenging or planting windows are narrower. 

The Gift of Flexibility

In recent years, John Deere and other Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have released sprayer PUKs to fit more of farmers' existing machines. For one farmer I work with, the ability to retrofit his R series sprayer with an upgrade kit, which included a pulse width modulation system, was a lifesaver. John Deere's pulse width modulating system allows a farmer to adjust droplet size and rate of application based on infra-field variability. With this upgrade, the farmer achieved a greater spray rate accuracy and reduced the total application. Without the significant purchase of a state-of-the-art sprayer, a farmer can still improve their spray application through the sprayer’s PUK, which includes a pulse width modulation system.

After working with these farmers, we all agree that PUKs offer gifts today, tomorrow and for weeks into the future. With upgrade kits, farmers can enhance their operation’s efficiency through connected machines during their early planting phases without making significant investments upfront. Good equipment with the right additions can add years of gifts to your farming operation – which may rival the satisfaction of freshly churned ice cream at the end of a long day.

Erin Hightower

Erin Hightower has been working in farm planning and agronomy for 15 years. As an Agronomist at RDO Equipment Co., she works with team members and growers in the Northwest region, focused on education and training, and conducting field trials. She is a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) and Certified USDA NRCS Nutrient Management Planner, Certified Conservation Planner, and Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planner.

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