Getting into precision farming dive in, or test the water first?
Buying a system
Talk to your consultant and shop around. A number of specialist firms market equipment which can be fitted to existing machinery, and some farm machinery manufacturers offer systems custommade for their existing models. If you're buying new machinery, consider buying it with a factory-fitted system.
But starting in the new technology need not involve spending a lot of money all at once. There are various ways to spread costs and ease in slowly.
Many of the firms selling systems will also rent them. Costs are reasonable — as little as $5 per hour for a GPS.
Buying part of a system
Some system components such as yield monitors serve a useful purpose by themselves and can be bought before the rest of the system. A first practical step could be to try yield monitoring for a year or so, even without the GPS. This allows busy farmers plenty of time to get to grips with preliminaries such as calibrating the monitor for each crop.
Sharing a system or sharing data
Some equipment lends itself to sharing, but the biggest dividends come from sharing costs of commissioning information from satellite or airborne remote sensing, and the cost of interpretation and maps. Getting together with neighbours to map a region can reduce costs dramatically.
A typical system
One manufacturer offers the following typical system:
- a mass-flow sensor located in the combine's clean-grain elevator: grain is measured as it strikes a plate;
- a moisture sensor on the side of the clean-grain elevator:
- a position receiver — a headlight-size component mounted on the grain tank which identifies location and ground speed
- a differential correction to correct errors in the GPS signal;
- a menu-driven display at the right-hand corner post of the cab where the operator can see it clearly and reach it easily; and
- a mapping processor by the operator's seat with a removable data storage card used to transfer data from the combine to a personal computer.