Precision Point Blog

Ag Leader

Aug, 05 2010 - by Ag Leader

Downloading Satellite Imagery

Using satellite imagery as a background for field maps can provide valuable insights that may have gone unnoticed while in the field. SMS software provides access to many free image sources. This video will discuss how to download and add satellite imagery to your field maps.

Ag Leader

Aug, 05 2010 - by Aaron Friedlein

Meet me at the driveway with the really tall tree…

Have you ever gotten directions from someone who referenced land marks rather than distance and directions?  In my earlier years I had a summer job at our local coop tendering some late spring spraying.  I thought I knew the area fairly well, so I didn’t hesitate.  One day as I approached the field the radio lit up and the sprayer operator was telling me that I drove past the driveway that he wanted to meet me at… Funny…  the “really tall”  tree that he gave me directions for before we left the coop was no where to be found, however the house that was across the road was there for many years.

I told you that story to exemplify how one person who knows the area, and is used to certain landmarks, can forget that others may need a more precise description.  The tree I was given directions to had fallen down the previous winter.  However, if he had showed me on a satellite image of the field and surrounding roads and landmarks, I would have seen there was an acreage across the road from where he wanted to refill.  Recently, at the same coop, they have started giving a $1 off per acre of the application charge if the grower provides a map with a boundary and satellite image of the field.  Hmm…do you suppose more trees have fallen down in recent years? smile

Below is a video that walks you through downloading satellite imagery automatically for your fields within SMS.  There is a wide range of uses for them, and their benefits are virtually endless.


Ag Leader

Jul, 30 2010 - by Corey Weddle

Laptops, and Tablets, and Netbooks! Oh, My!

If you’re like most people, the amount of computer hardware options available to you can become more than a little confusing. Do I want a laptop or a netbook? What is a netbook in the first place? What’s the difference between a laptop and a tablet and what the heck is a “convertible”? (Hint…it’s not a shinny sports car in the computer world). Hopefully the following discussion will give you a better understanding of the differences between these devices and which might be right for you. Laptops – The traditional portable computer. Laptops have become drastically cheaper over the last five years and also become much more reliable. In addition, laptops generally are not very rugged and do not have screens made for outdoor use or visibility. However, many companies do make ruggedized laptops that are built like tanks and normally have sunlight readable displays, but they aren’t very cheap. A major advantage to a laptop is that it normally has a large screen (10" - 17”) and a keyboard. Today, most laptops  provide as much power and performance as an average desktop computer.

Image courtesy of Dell, Inc.

Netbooks – This is the latest craze and the cheapest portable computer you can currently buy. Netbooks are very small and meant to be extremely portable and have long battery lives. What this means though is they have reduced specifications across the board; smaller screens (7-11”), lower screen resolutions, less memory, less hard drive space, slower processors, etc. Netbooks are great for what their name implies, using the internet or for email. Beyond that you will probably run into some serious limitations, especially if you expect it to be your daily work machine. Generally netbooks are not very rugged either, so do not expect them to hold up too well in the field. If you do get a netbook make sure you get one with a default screen resolution of at LEAST 1024 x 768, anything smaller and you will be disappointed.


Tablets – The truly portable PC. Tablets are not new to the market but in the last few years have been gaining more steam and evolving into a viable solution if you need a portable PC. Tablets have really come into their own since the release of Windows VISTA and Windows 7. Tablets generally do not have a keyboard and just have a screen that supports a touch interface. A variation of this is what is often called a “convertible”. This means that the tablet does have a normal keyboard and can look like a normal laptop but the screen actually can be rotated so that the screen covers the keyboard and you can just use the touch screen and carry the device like a normal tablet. Tablets come in many shapes and sizes and ruggedized models are becoming more common - not to mention at more affordable prices. A tablet can provide all the features you need for outdoor use, if properly configured, and without breaking the bank in the process. Tablets

For my money, if I’m going to be doing a mixture of outdoor work and indoor work then the tablet style PC is the way to go.

Ag Leader

Jul, 23 2010 - by Dave King

The trade show…are they different around the world?

Ag Leader Distributor D & E booth at ExpoAgro in Argentina.

The trade show has been a staple in the agricultural industry for over a century.  The popularity of these shows has grown over the years to the point that there is a show in every state along with large national and international shows.  Agricultural trade shows generally cover a wide range of agricultural products for a particular region but some focus on specific crops, equipment or technology.  No matter the type of show they all provide the grower with an opportunity to see the latest products as well as speak with representatives of the companies offering the products.

In several of the past international blog posts both Paul Rose and I have written about a few of the trade shows we have attended overseas.  While international agricultural shows are very similar to those in North America there are some major differences.  In North America most growers who attend trade shows are there to look at the new equipment and ask questions about how it works and the benefits it can provide to their operation.  It is a good chance to “kick some tires” and collect information, very few purchases are actually made at the show.  In contrast there are a lot of purchases made at trade shows in Brazil.  Growers purchase everything from precision farming equipment to inputs to tractors at the show.  The large OEMs and input suppliers will even have finance offices at their booth to help growers complete their purchases on the spot.

Trade shows in Europe tend to be a more formal event than here in North America.  While we stick with the more casual jeans and t-shirt approach (khakis and polo shirt for exhibitors) it is common for the Europeans to be in suits and ties, especially the exhibitors.  European trade shows also tend to be more extravagant than shows in North America.  The company booths are more elaborate with conference rooms for meetings and gathering areas with tables and chairs where wine, beer and food are served to the growers visiting the booth.  Some of the exhibitors have stages in their booth where demonstrations are given complete with music, dancers and entertainers.  These can be quite a production.

Another common aspect of the trade shows in Europe is the immense amout of business-to-business activity that takes place.  While this happens at all trade shows it seems more of this takes place in Europe.  For example, Agritechnica in Hannover, Germany is seven days long and the first two days of the show are "industry days".  During this time admittance is limited to industry people and invited guests for the purpose of business-to-business activities.

Australia and South Africa tend to have trade shows similar to the ones here in North America.  They are more casual and focused on the grower.  They provide the opportunity to meet one-on-one with company representatives and get live demos of equipment.

While each trade show is different they all provide growers a good opportunity to see the latest products and get their questions answered directly from company representatives.  It also allows companies to hear directly from  growers and find out what is important to their operation.  I am sure the agricultural trade show will continue to be around for another century as it is difficult to replace the personal interaction between the grower and the companies that serve them.

Below is a list of some of the international trade shows from around the world and their websites in case you ever have the opportunity to attend one.  The websites are great sources of information and contain picture galleries as well.  Most have an English version in case you can’t quite remember that foreign language class you took back in high school.

Agrishow – Brazil

ExpoAgro – Argentina

SIMA – France

Agritechnica – Germany

Cereals – United Kingdom

AgroTech Russia – Russia

NAMPO – South Africa

Henty Machinery Field Days – Australia

China Agricultural Trade Fair – China

Ag Leader

Jul, 22 2010 - by Andy Boyle

More Q & A from Hardware Training

Since my last post I have had to empty out my rain gauge a few times.  It does not happen very often we complain about all the rain that we are getting in mid to late July.  While I do not have the answer to why we are receiving all of this rain now, I do have some answers to questions  we have received during training.

GPS & Steering - If a ParaDyme fails calibration verification can I still use it for steering?

No, if  ParaDyme fails this step it ignores the calibration and you must redo the Auto Cal.  You must pass the verification step before the system can be engaged on a line.  For details about the calibration verification step in the Auto Cal process see the current ParaDyme manual for Version 1.6.17177.

SeedCommand - When I pulled into one of my fields to plant I noticed the display was counting acres, AutoSwath was working correctly but I was not able to see my map on the display.  Why didn’t my map show up and what can I do to prevent this from happening again?

Different scenarios can cause this to happen.  The most common scenario is when the operator loads a field on to the run screen while he is at home with the planter lowered to the ground.  The monitor then logs that point as being planted in a field and it is actually miles away.  As the operator drives to the field the onscreen map will zoom out to keep the point that was logged at home.  It also keeps the planter's current position on the map screen.  By the time the operator arrives at the field the map is zoomed out so far the field is no longer visible on the display.  The short term fix is to press the clear bounds button which re-centers the map over your current position.  The long term solution is to create field boundaries for all of your fields.

DirectCommand - When I am spraying over 10 miles per hour I receive a message on my monitor that says, “Max speed exceeded for Automatic Swath Control with 1 Hz GPS”.  What does this message mean?

When that message appears it means that your GPS receiver is outputting strings of information to your monitor at a rate less than 5 times per second.  Check to make sure the receiver you are using is capable of outputting 5 Hz.   If it is capable of outputting 5 Hz change the receiver Hz to 5, the baud rate to 19200 or higher and the message will no longer appear.

Harvest - What is the difference between Automatic Variety Tracking and Automatic Region Changing?

For starters, both options are used to track the varieties you planted earlier in the year.  The Automatic Variety Tracking option only tracks the varieties; it notifies the operator when he/she enters  a different variety while harvesting. To help categorize Automatic Region Changing, let's first define a region.  A region is a way to separate data in a field...some guys separate it by truck loads, some guys define regions by varieties, others do it by bins.   When you use Automatic Region Changing you are automatically separating the data by varieties.  All other regions are logged manually.

Hope the answers to these questions will save you some time in the future.  Remember Ag Leader Hardware Training is going on around the country. Contact your Ag Leader Dealer for dates in your area; a schedule can also be found here.

Ag Leader

Jul, 20 2010 - by Isaac Bowers

So you’re thinking about setting up a computer network…

In the age of computers and the internet, we have become accustomed to finding out information quickly and easily.  On top of that, computers are becoming faster and have become more affordable for a business or farming operation to purchase.  As your business grows and more people become involved, one of the items you increasingly become aware of is the amount of work that is duplicated.  Duplication of work is a waste of your limited time and it can also be costly. One of the ways to get around this is to setup a computer network at your place of business.  This allows you to link multiple computers so they can easily share information and at the same time do it securely.  A simplified example might be a checklist for each employee that anyone can access from any computer on the network.

Projects in SMS Advanced software. Click to enlarge image.

One of the features of SMS Advanced is the ability to use computer networks to share information between different computers.  Many service providers (i.e. co-ops, consultants) that use SMS Advanced will set up a server as a data storage location.  They will then install SMS Advanced on each person’s computer who needs access to the data.  SMS Advanced has the ability to create multiple Projects (think of it like a folder for your filing cabinet) to keep each customer’s information separate.  While only one person can be in a particular Project at a time, once they close the Project, anyone else who looks at that information will be able to automatically see all of the updates and changes the previous person made. Another feature of SMS Advanced is Project Check In/Check Out, which can be found by going to File - Projects.  This allows you to copy the information from the server to a laptop or a local computer in your office.  This allows users to download Projects to their remote computer and take information to the field to read in new files and make additional changes.  While a Project is checked out, others on the network will not be able to access it.  Once the Project is checked back in, other users will be able to see new information that was read in or any changes that were made. Curious about networks?  Let us know if you have additional questions.

Ag Leader

Jul, 19 2010 - by Corey Weddle

Coming this fall…SMS Mobile PC!

We’re excited to announce SMS Mobile PC - set for fall 2010 release. SMS Mobile PC is the same great application we’ve been selling for several years for Windows Mobile devices but now made to install on laptops, netbooks, and tablet PCs running Windows XP, VISTA, or 7 operating systems. We know many of you have been waiting for this product and we are happy to be providing it to you this fall.  For more details please see the press release, a video by Michael Vos (see below), and of course our website.


Ag Leader

Jul, 19 2010 - by Ag Leader

Ag Leader Announces Fall Release of SMS Mobile PC

AMES, IOWA, July 19, 2010 – Today, Ag Leader Technology, Inc., a leader in the development of precision farming solutions, announced the fall release of SMS Mobile PC – a new way to utilize SMS Mobile software. This new installation option for SMS Mobile enables support on PC- based devices, including netbooks, tablets and laptop computers; the product can be utilized on any device running a Windows operating system – XP, Vista, or Windows 7. SMS Mobile PC can be utilized on PC-based devices, including laptops, tablets, and netbooks. SMS Mobile PC offers another way for growers to collect information in the field that can flow between their mobile device and their SMS desktop software. Utilizing SMS Mobile on a netbook, tablet or laptop gives users the ability to see more information on one screen. “SMS Mobile PC puts SMS Mobile on a larger screen so you can adjust the size of windows and their location on the screen to match the way you want to work,” says Corey Weddle, Director of Software Solutions.“The addition of support for PC-based devices also allows for higher screen resolutions, larger buttons, faster processing and more memory than the traditional SMS Mobile PDA version.” SMS Mobile PC provides five field operations in which a user can record data: Boundary, Soil Sampling, Crop Scouting, Coverage Logging and General Logging. Ag Leader Technology offers industry leading customer support, and all SMS products are backed by our software-dedicated support team. About Ag Leader Ag Leader Technology, Inc. is a pioneer and recognized technology innovator of precision agriculture hardware and software. Located in Ames, Iowa the company manufactures and markets industry leading precision farming technology designed to help growers make smart, profitable business decisions. Founded in 1992 the company has achieved consistent growth and expansion by provid- ing value-based products that help growers and ag professionals achieve and maintain a successful operation. 2964

Ag Leader

Jul, 15 2010 - by Isaac Bowers

Computer considerations for precision ag software (Part 2)

Welcome back!  As promised, here are the additional items to consider when purchasing a new computer for use with your precision ag software.  In case you missed the first part of this list, click here.

SMS Support Specialist dual monitor setup.

Monitor and Screen Resolution: SMS Basic/Advanced requires at least a 15” monitor with the ability to display a 1024 x 768 screen resolution or higher.  Monitors purchased over the last couple years should have no problem meeting this requirement. If you spend a lot of time analyzing data in your precision ag software or just want more viewing area, I would suggest updating your screen to a 17” screen or larger with full HD 1080P or higher resolution.  For those of you that like to multi-task, you might even consider getting a computer that supports working with dual displays. I’m currently using dual 22” wide-screen monitors at work to do support and testing and I like it much more than the 15” laptop screen that I use at home. CD/DVD/Blu-ray Burner: As with any record keeping system, it’s important to make backups of your information. Your precision farming information should not be treated differently.  Burning backups to a CD (up to 700 MB) or DVD (up to 8.5 GB) is a very cheap way to ensure your data's safety.  For those of you that need more capacity, consider purchasing a Blu-ray burner (up to 50GB).  Making a backup of your precision ag software data and saving it to your computer’s hard-drive is simply not enough.  I’ve heard of hard-drives crashing, computers getting viruses, basement offices flooding, laptops being stepped on, and even where a computer was thrown half-way across the room!!  You depend so much on the information that you’ve spent time collecting in the field, organizing and analyzing it - it would be a shame to have to redo it or worse, lose it altogether. Card Reader: Card readers are what you use to transfer the data from many precision ag displays into your precision farming desktop software.  If you have an Ag Leader Edge display, you will need a card reader that can read Compact Flash (CF) cards.  If you are running an Ag Leader Integra display, you do not need a card reader as the INTERA uses a USB stick which can be inserted into any empty USB port on your computer. Additional add-on’s worth considering:

  • Bluetooth module
  • Built-in WiFi card – b/g/n support
  • Gigabit Ethernet connection/card

Hopefully you now feel more informed before purchasing your next computer.  If you have additional questions on computers, I would recommend working with your computer provider to find out more about the different options that you have.  Good luck!

Ag Leader

Jul, 14 2010 - by Paul Rose

From Sweden to Scotland…

At the time of writing this it has been nigh on 2 months since I have seen a spot of rain, though admittedly 4 weeks of that I spent in Africa. As you can imagine, this is starting to have an impact on some crops over here in the UK they are starting to show signs of stress due to lack of water. Hopefully we will see some rain soon but it will soon be too late for some of the winter wheat and yields will be impacted. My wife even spotted a combine working last week in some winter barley, which is early even for us!

Recently, I spent a day or two in Sweden attending the Borgeby Field Days and also meeting with our distributor for that area Datalogisk who also had a stand there. The event is not too dissimilar to the Cereals show that Dave King visited a few weeks ago but on a slightly smaller scale. Having said that, Borgeby’s visitor numbers were up again this year to well over 14,000 in two days, which is a new record for this event. I suspect the warm and sunny weather played a part in this though!

One of the nice things about this event was the live demonstrations of various equipment such as seed drills, cultivators and combine harvesters. The organisers had to desiccate the barley crop two weeks prior to the event so the harvesters could run through it, but nonetheless if gave people an idea of what they were capable of.


CLAAS Lexion 600 with 10.5 meter header.



[caption id="attachment_2937" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="At the other end of the scale, the Sampo Rosenlew 2065. This is a Finnish built machine."]At the other end of the scale, the Sampo Rosenlew 2065. This is a Finnish built machine.


It was quite interesting see these machines all working away, especially when they all started off down the field at the same time!



Here's the starting line up!

Since then, I have managed to spend more than just a few days at home for a change. During this time, I have been to visit some customers and also fitted a yield monitor kit to a grower who has been trialling the OptRx sensors for us. Once they could see what the potential for real-time VRA nitrogen, they made the decision to buy a yield monitor to help verify the results. I think there a lot of people looking forward to seeing the results of the OptRx wheat trials, including myself.

Thankfully we have also had some rain. It had been 57 days since I had actually seen the rain and what a welcome sight it was! I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in places that have very little rainfall. But it has also come just in time for my working holiday – volunteering for the National Trust for Scotland. Hopefully the rain will cease by then!

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