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Agriculture Technology Podcast 167: See & Spray™ Ultimate

16 May 2022

Nathan Wright, RDO product expert, sits down with host Tony Kramer to discuss See & Spray Ultimate, John Deere's newest solution for targeted, in-crop spraying.

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Read the full transcript:

Tony: Nathan, welcome back to the show. We already had you on the show back in 2020. We recorded episode number 127, 40 episodes ago, but we talked about CommandPRO, that new way of controlling the IVT transmission. Neat to have you on again, before we dive into this episode, let's just remind our listeners a little bit about who you are, where you came from, and how you got to where you are today?

Nathan Wright: Thanks for having me back on the show here, Tony. A little bit of background about myself. I'm from the Northeastern part of South Dakota. I went to SDSU, graduated there in 2018 with Agriculture Systems Technology Degree, had various internships throughout the agriculture industry, and ended up as a product specialist here with RDO going on a little over three years now.

Tony: Awesome. Well, again, welcome back to the show. I'm excited to talk a little bit more and tell our listeners a little more about this cutting-edge technology that John Deere recently released. See & Spray Ultimate, let's just start out, Nathan, what is See & Spray Ultimate?

Nathan: See & Spray Ultimate is a new technology that John Deere released here, I believe it was in March at the Commodity Classic. It's a green-on-green spray solution. What we're doing is in crop, in rows, we got cameras that can detect the difference between crop and weeds and we are just spraying the weeds. If you want to call it a spot spray, that's the ultimate goal. That's what the whole technology revolves around and with chemical and different [unintelligible 00:02:29] is becoming so expensive, this looks like it could be a really good way to save the customer some money.

Tony: You had mentioned that this is a spot spray. I think you said green on green type recognition. John Deere, a couple of years back or last year, I think it was or maybe two years ago now, John Deere released what they call See & Spray Select. How is See & Spray Ultimate different from See & Spray Select?

Nathan: For those of you that don't know, so See & Spray Select was first introduced that's I would say the first part of this technology. We started on fallow ground. All's we were doing is looking for green. We're spraying fallow maybe wheat ground or something like that. We see a green weed, we spray it. Everything that that camera's seen that was green, it would spray. Now when we talk about See & Spray Ultimate, we're moving that to actually in row crops. Like you said, green on green. We have green crops, we have green weeds, now we need to identify what is a corn plant, what is a soybean plant, what is a weed?

Tony: It's really building upon what they started with with the See & Spray Select. Now, those of you that aren't familiar with See & Spray Select, I encourage you, go back and listen to episode 143 where I got the opportunity to talk with Erin Hightower, another RDO Equipment employee, where she told us about See & Spray Select and how that system operates. Then this episode here, we're going to build on top of that. Nathan is going to talk to us about how the See & Spray Ultimate system works. Now that we know the differences between See & Spray Select and See & Spray Ultimate, who are the target customers or what are the approved crops that we're going to be able to utilize this See & Spray Ultimate system in?

Nathan: John Deere has shared a little bit with us about what we can do. Unfortunately, we're not going to see a lot of these machines come out here in the next few year, it's just the way everything has been gone but our big target customers as of right now is corn, soybeans, and cotton. They got to be in 30-inch rows and we got to be going down the row with them. We're going to be looking at a group of row crop farmers. For the most part, probably going to be in the corn and bean country but cotton is an approved crop as well.

Tony: We got a small focus group of customers and like you said, this is a very new technology, it is going to be a very slow drip release into the market just because it is so unique. There's so much more testing or field truthing to be done. Obviously, John Deere has done a ton of that prior to release but it's still once we get real-world use, there's still a lot to learn about this system. You bring up a good point, Nathan, about we're going to be slow to see it in the market and that deals with the supply chain issues we're dealing with, but then also just making sure it's done right.

John Deere wants to do a very good job to make sure they tackle all pieces of it, they are able to clear all hurdles before this is widely released like the autonomous tillage solution, we talked about that a couple of episodes back. It'll slowly grow with the ability to utilize that nationwide. Now, Nathan, you told us a little bit about See & Spray Ultimate, where we're going to use it, how we're going to use it, let's talk about the machine itself.

I know there's a few key differences to these sprayers that are going to be equipped as See & Spray Ultimate. First things first, the boom, I know there's a major change in this boom and a lot of it has to do with See & Spray Ultimate. Let's tell our listeners a little bit about the boom and how it's unique to See & Spray Ultimate.

Nathan: Yes, exactly. You said it right there, this is going to have a new boom on it. These sprayers are going to absolutely stick out with this new boom. We got a new carbon fiber trust style boom. It's going to look similar to our steel boom, but we're completely made out of carbon fiber now. What's that new boom going to do for us? Lots of different things. We got a lightweight carbon fiber boom, seems that the way the industry is going, we've had our carbon fiber boom option here previously, there's a lot more that plays into this system.

We have a product that's going to be called Boom Track Ultimate. It's going to be an ultimate height control solution. We're going to have multiple sensors on that boom, multiple sensors on the machine. We need to keep that boom as level as possible. When we're spraying in the field now, we need to keep the boom height consistent as possible all the time, because the cameras are taking pictures, we can't have the boom going up and down, and those cameras not getting really good images. All those cameras need to take really good pictures so we can really identify the difference between the crops and the weeds and all that stuff.

Some have asked me how many cameras are on there? There's going to be about 36 cameras on this boom, roughly one every 3.3 feet as of right now, so the boom configuration that is going to be first released is going to be our 120-foot boom, 36 cameras on 15-inch on center. As that comes out, we talk about adding sensors. How does this system work? We have processors that are processing the images to tell the sprayer when to spray, when not to spray. We're adding those to the boom, we're adding cameras to the boom, and we're adding just a lot of stuff there.

Why did we come up with this new boom? Where did they come from and all this stuff? We needed a lighter weight boom. We're putting a lot of things on the boom, we're adding weight. We'll get into it a little bit later in the episode but we're going to have doubled the plumbing on this boom. We needed a little weight reduction in the boom area. When it's all said and done, at the end of the day, our sprayer isn't weighing more than the current one that you get today.

Tony: I've seen pictures, some videos of this new boom, it looks awesome to first starters but you said it right there at the end, the change in the boom is to accommodate all the additional components that are on that boom so we're not increasing weight. John Deere states that were pretty much the same weight as a standard 120 steel boom today, even though we have those processors and cameras and this other portion that we're going to jump into right now is the additional plumbing. Diving into that, Nathan, you said we're going to have twice the plumbing. Why are we going to have twice the plumbing on these See & Spray Ultimate sprayers?

Nathan: With these sprayers, we're actually going to have a split tank so we're going to have if you want to call it a front tank and a back tank or tank number one, tank number two, however you want to put it that way. What we're going to actually have the ability to do with this sprayer is, tank one will spray out of nozzle A, which would be the front of our ExactApply nozzle body, and tank two would spray out of B. We can technically put down two solutions at once. Maybe we're putting down a pre for the season and we want to put down a See & Spray Ultimate pulsing coming behind that.

Maybe we're going for a targeted weed we have in the field, so we can put down a pre and target the weed. Some of us know that we can't spray two chemicals together because they don't mix. What's that call for? There's two separate passes. Maybe we're hitting just two passes in one here, picking up some efficiency in the field, picking up some time, and getting over the acres faster. With that being said, this sprayer can be set up hundreds of ways. Lots of different ways we can set this sprayer up.

We can run this tank. We can run this sprayer just like an original sprayer. One big tank spraying out of either the front nozzle or the back nozzle, both of them at the same time. Lots of different combinations we got there. Then we can turn on what I'd call the See & Spray mode where the back nozzle just turns out when it sees weeds while the front nozzle is spraying or while the front nozzle is not spraying. Lots of different combinations to be used here in the future. I'm really excited to learn about this full system and see how we can help our customers out.

Tony: Now, I know with all of these additional components, the additional or added boom plumbing, we have a whole different tank. You said split tank or dual product system. What is the machine compatibility? Is this going to be available on all John Deere sprayers or is there only certain ones that will be able to get this equipped with?

Nathan: As of right now, they're just going to release us with three models. We're going to be able to get it on the 410, 412, and 612 models. They're coming out with three models. Just someplace to start and get the ball rolling. As we all know, it will integrate it into other models as we go down the road.

Tony: You said it when you were talking about the system, dual product system, the ability to run two completely different products that are not compatible to mitigate that antagonism or maybe you're going to put down like you said. Maybe we're going to do a fungicide across the entire field and then we want to spot spray with a herbicide. We no longer have to do two separate passes. We can be running those products at the same time.

It's a very unique system. Very cool. I am very excited to see these get out there and the uniqueness of how they can be utilized. The door is wide open when you have a dual product system, dual plumbing, two different nozzle, or one nozzle body but the nozzle A and nozzle B are on that one nozzle body which actually brings me to my next point, Nathan. The requirements to running this system, do we have specific requirements that are needed for the See & Spray Ultimate package?

Nathan: We do. We're going to start from the base. We got to have ExactApply. We got to run John Deere's ExactApply. We've seen that in the field. It's proved itself. That's where the starting came from. We're pausing. We're turning that nozzle on and off. We had to gain that control. We had to control each nozzle individually to get to where we even are today. When it comes down to it, this is a whole new machine.

We got a new boom, so we need a new sprayer. This isn't something we're going to put on a sprayer from 2014. This isn't going to be what we would call performance upgrade kit. It's going to be a new sprayer. It's going to be ordered from the factory. It's going to have ExactApply. Some might even ask, "I got a See & Spray Select sprayer, can I upgrade it to Ultimate?" That answer is actually going to be no. A See & Spray Ultimate sprayer is going to be a See & Spray Ultimate sprayer.

Tony: That's exactly the information that we're looking forward to. Like you said, Nathan, starting with the ExactApply so that dual product system. We got the one nozzle body but the ability to spray two products, and it's a new machine. No performance upgrade kits at this time. We can't take a See & Spray Select, move it into a See & Spray Ultimate. It is going to be a brand new machine. Again, this is brand new product, brand new information.

We are learning about this. Very slow drip release from John Deere and where these sprayers are going to be utilized and available. Unique product. Awesome, awesome capabilities. I'm very excited to see how this is going to go. Now, Nathan, because this is such a new product, we don't really have a success story, because neither you nor I nor most of the John Deere dealerships in the world, we haven't gotten the opportunity to see this. There are a select few that have, kind of jealous of them. We will get to learn more as things go on. Now, if the listeners, if customers out there want to learn more about See & Spray Ultimate, where can they go and who can they talk to?

Nathan: As of right now talk to your John Deere dealership. Should be there is some information out there for us to share with our customers and give you a little more insight on it and spike your interest, get your interest within this product so when it comes the day where you can actually order it, you can actually order it. Always nice to start some of those conversations early. YouTube is going to be a great resource for us too. Now, lots of nice videos out there to show you some about the system. Maybe you've never seen it before.

You're listening to this episode and you actually want to see what this thing looks like, hit up the YouTube video. They put some release videos out there for us. Some good information out there.

Tony: I just want to thank you, Nathan, for taking the time again to sit down and chat with me this time about See & Spray Ultimate. Again, awesome product, really neat features. It's going to be cool to see this thing out and about. Thank you for doing this, Nathan.

Nathan: Thank you, Tony.

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