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Agriculture Technology Podcast 166: Efficient Technology

3 May 2022

For many in the Midwest and Upper Midwest, this spring has been a challenging one. As we turn the calendar to May, there are many growers who haven’t gotten a single crop in the ground due to wet and cold conditions.

This latest episode covers technology and solutions that will help your operation be more efficient and productive during short windows of time that many are facing in the weeks ahead.


You can find past podcast episodes by visiting our Podcast website

Have precision ag questions? We have the answers. Find a specific channel dedicated to answering your precision technology questions: Precision Ag Answers. 

Read the full transcript:

Tony: What I want to talk about today is here we are April 25th, yes, I am recording this episode on Monday and it is 27 degrees out here in the Fargo, North Dakota area, the central red river valley so it's cold. We have not gotten in the fields yet. We're still wet. There's still possibly some frost in the ground so we are delayed. Normally around this area, around this time on the calendar, now don't get me wrong, we don't farm, or we shouldn't be farming by calendar dates. We should be farming by fit soil conditions and what the ground looks like or what the ground is giving us.

Normally or on a more average year, we would probably have most of the small grains in the ground. We would maybe have some sugar beets in the ground. Planting dates, insurance, planting dates are around that April 10th, April 15th, April 20th, depending on which state you're in, but we'd normally be planting corn by now. Some guys would have soybeans in.

Big thing is we would be turning wheels. We would have a lot of seed in the ground and we would be well on our way to this growing season, but we are delayed due to weather. I know there's other places in the United States, other places in the world that are also potentially get delayed by weather. This isn't the first time this has happened. This isn't going to be the last time this has happened.

In this show, I just wanted to take a few minutes here to talk about some solutions or technologies that you can maybe adopt or purchase for your farm to make things more efficient when we are behind the eight ball, we're slow to get going. We need to be as efficient as possible when it comes to go time. Now, I say that with a word of caution in these delayed seasons, please be safe. Do not overlook the safety on your farming operation. Doesn't matter if you are a small one-man show or you are a very large farm with many employees, please do not overlook farm safety and what's going on.

With that, let's dive into some of these solutions, technologies pieces of equipment that we can add to our farming operation to be more efficient, more productive in these short windows of time that we need to either get fertilizer out, get the seed in the ground, maybe get out and spray or even I will talk very briefly on a couple of combine technologies. Now, a lot of this stuff is stuff we've already covered in past episodes, but again, being its April 25th, that is 27 degrees out here in the Northern United States, I felt like I had to share this information to talk about some of those solutions that are out there.

The first one I want to talk about, let's start simple. Cost-free there's no cost behind this. Everybody has the ability to utilize it. Even farms that aren't necessarily green or they're not full John Deere fleets, but I'm talking about the operation center, the John Deere operation center, or any other farm management software that is out there that you may be using, but specifically the John Deere operation center.

If you go back a couple episodes to episode 163, we talked about pre-planning. Making sure we have field names in the displays, we have our guidance lines cleaned up. We have our guidance lines selected and then our product list. We have all of our varieties, our hybrids, our chemicals, our fertilizers, everything that we need is already pre-loaded, we're not taking the time to very-- it's a cumbersome task to enter in names or words or whatever it may be in those displays. Yes, they're touch screen displays, but they're not ergonomic like a keyboard. It's not like sitting at the computer.

Does it work? Yes. Is it effective or the best use of your time? Probably not. That's why utilizing the operation center right now, maybe our equipment is already to go and we're just twitling our thumbs waiting for this weather to warm up or the ground to dry up things like that. Now is the time you can be doing all of that stuff, making sure everything is ready to go. You have set up files sent out, or maybe you're using work planner, the new work planner. We talked about that roughly a year ago when it came out, the capabilities of utilizing work planner. Again, you go back to episode 163, we talk more about that in depth.

Number one, operation center. Number two, on top of that, is operation center mobile. If you are an operation center user and you don't have operation center mobile downloaded to your cell phone, your tablet, iPad, whatever you're using, apple or Android devices, please download operation center mobile. There is a lot of logistical stuff on there that you can utilize to help your operation be extremely efficient. Things like, if we have boundaries around our field, how much of that field has been completed?

Things like where our machines are. Watching that data flow in, we're able to see what's going on. We're able to make educated decisions in near real-time as some of that data is flowing in. In conjunction with that, if we want to monitor our fleet, we want to have things like that. We need to make sure we have the JD link connectivity. JD link goes back oh, all the way to, I believe like 2011 JD link machines or those machines were capable of JD link.

Now that being said in 2011, they had 2G technology. 2G technology is now dead, 3G technology is now dead so if you have those older machines, you need to make sure you get them upgraded to 4G modems or 4g JD link terminals to make sure we have that connectivity. We are talking to the operation center, we're talking to the John Deere ecosystem of technology and farm management software. Making sure you're utilizing the operation center, but also making sure our machines are connected with that JD link, 4G connectivity.

Those are a couple of things that we can do that are very simple. Getting the operation center set up, set up files, work planner, and then utilizing operation center mobile on your mobile device while you are farming, while you're out there just keeping things in check from a logistic standpoint.

The next thing I wanted to mention is some display capabilities. What are some of the activations or what are some of the technologies out there that we can utilize to be more efficient from a display perspective? Now, of course, we all know auto track. We're not overlapping more than we should be with tillage tools or we're not covering unnecessary ground things like that. We're utilizing the guidance lines to drive straight up and down the field or around curves, things like that.

One of the things that we can add to auto track that will help us after planting, when we move into spraying, we move into harvest is auto path. We talked about auto path in a prior episode. Auto path is going to give us the ability to be more efficient on those follow-up passes. If you want to learn more about auto path and the capabilities and what we're doing with that, go back, take a listen to the auto path episode. If I pull up my notes here real quick, I believe we talked about auto path in episode 136. A little over a year ago beginning of 2021, we talked about auto path so go listen to that.

It is essentially creating guidance lines for every single row unit from your planter. There's no more when you pull into the field with the sprayer or the combine. There's no more wondering, oh, which guidance line do I need to use, because we have three that are pretty much identical or no more having to constantly shift the guidance lines, things like that. The last one that I love no more counting rows.

If you have mismatched equipment, as far as width, or those of you in the sugar beet world, needing to make sure your topped rows line up with your harvesting rows, no more counting those lines because AutoPath automatically compensates or AutoPath calculates the width of your machine and automatically puts those guidance lines where they need to be, lot of good benefits when it comes to an efficiency standpoint, no more playing that guessing game, no more getting out and counting rows, no more of any of that stuff when we're using auto path and we use the planter as the source operation. Again, go back, take a listen to the AutoPath episode to learn more.

The next one is AutoTrack turn automation. Lot of us we heard about the autonomous tillage solution that John Deere came out with. I talked about it just a couple episodes back on the road to automation and how we can get there, how we can be prepared for that but right now, AutoTrack turn automation is essentially the best thing that we have. AutoTrack turn automation is what I call semi-autonomous farming. You jump in, you start the operation, you hit the resume button. From there we no longer have to lift and lower the implement. We no longer have to turn the machine around everything like that.

Now you may be asking yourself, "Well, how is that going to help me efficiency-wise?" We think about what are we doing in the tractor? Everything we do tractor sprayer combine. This is just tractor specific with AutoTrack turn automation, but it's repetition. We're going up and down the field, we're turning around. Other things that you think are repetitive is think of an assembly line. The best way to be efficient is to do that exact process, the exact same way every single time.

We're not making an extra-wide turn, or we're not making too narrow of a turn and we got to back up and start fresh. We're lifting and lowering the implement single time at the exact right moment. We're not coming down too slow and okay, now we got to stop and back up, put the planter down. No. Some of that, the longer we sit in the planter, we may get some muscle memory and it might get smoother and smoother and smoother as the planting season goes on, but we get that instant repetition, that efficient turnaround every single time right from the beginning of planting season.

There's no dusting off the cobwebs. There's no remembering what to do or how to do it. Getting that in there so it's the exact same turnaround, the same timing every single time is going to make the operation more efficient. Those are two display functionalities that I would highly recommend. Both of them require Gen IV, whether we're using our 4,600 displays or we're using our 4640 Universal Displays, we need that automation activation or automation subscription if you're using the 4640.

Talk to talk to your salesman, your local John Deere dealership, and ask them about getting into making sure you have Gen IV, making sure you have the capable equipment, and then getting that automation activation on there to take advantage of AutoPath and AutoTrack turn automation.

The last couple things I want to talk about is, of course, the equipment, just the iron itself, what can we add to our farm or what can we do to make ourselves more efficient in the future? Now, I know we can't make these changes right now. We're hopefully going to be turning wheels and diving in the soil pretty soon here, but looking out to the future how can we be more efficient on our operation? What can we do? What can we add? What changes can we make to our equipment?

One of them, of course, I can't overlook this but the exact emerge planter. When that came out, a lot of people, and even today, a lot of people talk about, well, it's the high-speed planner, no matter what brand, whether it's the exact emerge, it's the speed tube or the Kinsey. I believe it's speed something or whatever it may be, but it's all marketed as speed. Yes, with the exact emerge planter, you can plant, you can place a phenomenal seed placement at very high speeds.

I myself have witnessed speed trials from 5 miles an hour upwards of 14 miles an hour. You don't see a whole lot of difference in that speed range. Now we all know we don't have those capabilities with the traditional seed tube. You can do it. You can pump out those seeds at 14 miles an hour, but you're not going to get that consistent seed placement. Why I bring this up is because the exact emerge planter, no matter if you are going to go six miles an hour or even seven, seven and a half miles an hour, we are being more efficient than a traditional planter planting at 4 or 5 miles an hour.

If we can get up, we don't have to drive 10 miles an hour. Now, does this planter plant amazingly at 10 miles an hour? Absolutely. We've learned the faster you go, the better this thing plants. That being said, this thing plants amazing at 6 miles an hour, at 7 miles an hour at 8 miles an hour. If you can just bump up a little bit of speed, you are going to be more efficient. You're going to be more productive and you're going to get a lot more done.

We've got the ability to get whether you're in the market for a brand new planter or the planter that you have. Say structurally, there's nothing wrong with it. We have performance upgrade kits that you can get on your older planters. You're just placing the row units. You're jumping up to electric drive, you're getting the exact emerge seed delivery system. The thing that I like to talk about, no matter the speed you go, again, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 miles an hour. It's the placement that is key on that. With this one, we're talking about speed, we're talking about efficiency, so exact merge planters.

The next thing I want to talk about, which usually goes ahead of planting, but those of you listeners that utilize tillage in your practices or your operation is think about tillage options, tillage tool options. We think about what that tool is doing or what it needs to do, and think about the efficiency of what we can do.

The first thing that just pops out to me is a traditional field cultivator. I'm going to compare the 2210 to the 2230. Back when the 2210 was around John Deere introduced the high productivity sweeps meant to go a little bit faster, be a little more productive. Then John Deere released the 2230, the tool itself. That tool was rebuilt, redesigned in order to maintain or in order to be capable of higher speeds.

When you think about what you're doing today with a field cultivator and what you could do with potentially a 2230, if you don't have one is just increasing your speeds, running that field cultivator at 10, 15 miles an hour, whatever it may be, there's a difference there in the tool itself. The other one is the 2680H. We all know high-speed discs, compact discs, high-performance discs, a lot of different names out there for them but the 2680H, that might be the tool for you. Is it creating a good seedbed? Is it doing what you want it to do and you're doing it all at high speeds? That's another tool that has that option.

The third one is the 2660 VT, referred to as a Vertical Tillage Tool or a variable gang angle tillage tool. Very cool. You can be at an aggressive angle, almost like a disc, or you can be at a very shallow angle where you're doing some vertical tillage, but that again, too, depending on the angle your discs are at, how can you be the most productive but get done what you need to get done?

One thing I wanted to talk about in addition to the tillage tool itself is making sure we are utilizing the technology of TruSet. Now, TruSet has been out for a while. Came out with the 2730 Combination Ripper a number of years back, and it's been introduced to some of these tools.

One of the things that TruSet can make us more efficient is not having to get out of the cab to make adjustments. That can slow down an operation 10-fold. Having to get out, put in donut stops, adjust your single point, whatever it may be, so if you have tools that are capable of running Truset do it. You can make those adjustments right from in the cab, it's very quick. Not to mention, you could also do prescription tillage.

If you want to go deeper on the headlands to get rid of some of the compaction or maybe you have some different soil types, you got some bull sand or you got some heavy clay, all in the same field, that type of stuff can all be done with prescription or variable rate tillage. Utilizing TruSet isn't just a convenience thing from inside the cab, but it's also an efficiency thing because you can make on-the-fly adjustments right as you're going. That's another piece that goes with the tillage tool offerings.

Be thinking about tillage options, what you're running today for tillage tools and what you could potentially change to maybe be more efficient with that tillage tool. One thing I want to note, it's not always about width. Yes, of course, we can be more productive if we go from a 40-foot field cultivator up to a 50 or 52-foot field cultivator. It's not always about width. Think about the efficiency and what we're doing just with a-- Say we stick with a 40-foot field cultivator but we move from a 40-foot 2210 to a 40-foot 2030, we can pick up a little speed, we're still getting good seedbed preparation, it's all there.

The next one is sprayer, so, of course, ExactApply. ExactApply is an amazing technology. No pulse width modulation is not new. There are many other companies or manufacturers out there that had it prior to ExactApply, but John Deere has ExactApply. One of the coolest things about ExactApply is we can be very efficient with the speed of that sprayer because we hold a consistent pressure. Whether you're slowing down to make turns, you're going 18 miles an hour up and down the field, whatever you are comfortable doing, we're holding that consistent pressure.

The other thing that's really unique to it is if we can't be in pulsing mode or we're not going to be in pulsing mode, we have that auto A, B nozzle selection where we can run two different size nozzles or tips and as we’re just getting going, we run out a nozzle A, we speed up a little bit, it flips to nozzle B, we speed up even more, and it's now springing out of nozzle A and B. Again, we're getting good consistent coverage, we’re applying the product where and when the product needs to be applied but we're being very consistent with it at those different speeds.

ExactApply is another one that can increase the efficiency of our operation because we're not having to change nozzles, change how we're applying things like that, it's all done right in the display.

The last one I wanted to talk about is just the Combine Advisor package, so we went through everything, talked about some stuff, but Combine Advisor package. There's two technologies that can increase the efficiency of our operation, and that's Active-Yield and the Auto Maintain system with the Activision cameras. Active-Yield, how's that going to increase efficiency? Obviously, we don't have to do yield calibrations anymore. The yield calibrations are automatic. They're going to happen in the background. No longer having to stop, empty out completely on the grain cart, things like that.

Then the Auto Maintain. Having those Activision cameras. Yes, right now ordering new combines, we cannot get those cameras due to the wonderful global pandemic that we've dealt with over the past 2.5 years here. Supply chain issues things like that, but there are many used machines out there. Many of you possibly already have these Activision cameras, things like that, that we can get on the farm to be more efficient.

With those Auto Maintain, with those Activision cameras that control Auto Maintain, we are making adjustments on-the-fly. Rather than always having to do power shut downs or get out behind the combine and stop and check. Now, I'm not saying don't do that. You still need to do that to make sure the system is working as it should, but we are able to see the tailings elevator, we're able to see the clean grain elevator, and the machine itself will make adjustments based on the parameters that you set. Lot of good stuff, lot of good technologies.

We could keep going and going and going on all of this stuff and how it can make us more efficient, more productive, but we have reached the end of this episode. Hopefully, this is informational for you. Hopefully, you can take some of it back. Maybe change some practices on your farm, add some technology, or maybe it's something as simple as just getting into the operation center and being prepared for the season. Whether that be spring, summer, fall, or those of you that get the opportunity to farm year round, just being prepared for all of that.

Please take a moment to subscribe to this podcast if you haven't already. You can subscribe to the show on the many podcasting apps that we're streaming this out to, such as Apple Podcast, Google Podcast. We've got it on Stitcher, Overcast, SoundCloud, as well as many others. While you're out there, drop us a review. We'd love to hear what you think about the show.

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