A buyer's guide to site specific technology

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It is possible to start farming more precisely without global positioning systems, yield maps, or computers but these tools play an important role in recording and interpreting paddock information.

Taking time to learn about how these devices work will help farmers gain an understanding of the benefits they may bring to their farming businesses.

Equipment used for precision farming is mainly electronic and will need to be serviced by specialists. Prospective buyers need to make sure the products they acquire are suited to their operation and the supplier or representative will provide adequate support.

Before investing in precision farming technology it is worth finding out whether the equipment can be hired or leased. When making enquiries about buying or hiring precision farming technology it is worth considering:

  • Installation and set up — who will install the technology and for what cost?
  • Warranty and service — is warranty and service provided and for how long? Will faulty components be replaced on an exchange basis?
  • Support—will problems be diagnosed over the phone and does the support person have a detailed understanding of the gear?
  • Price — how much will the technology cost up-front and in annual subscriptions?
  • DGPS service coverage — will the service reliably provide a signal in my area?

When the equipment is installed, it is essential that the supplier's representative is present to make sure the whole system works.

Electronic equipment can fail within the first few hours of operation so an extra pair of eyes may prevent future problems.

It is also worthwhile to make sure the supplier is told about the type of computer being used in the farm office. This allows them to recommend the most appropriate software system.

There are two operating systems in use on farms today — DOS-Windows 3.0 or higher and Windows 95. Programs written for DOS-Windows 3.0 or higher may not work successfully on a machine running Windows 95 and vice versa.