Precision Point Blog

Isaac Bowers

Isaac Bowers is Ag Leader’s Software Support and Training Supervisor. In this role, he supervises the department that supports and trains users on SMS Desktop and SMS Mobile software programs. Isaac is originally from Iowa and received a degree in Ag Systems Technology from Iowa State University. He enjoys helping out on the family farm, running and fishing.

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, 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 Isaac Bowers

Computer considerations for precision ag software (Part 1)


A common question we get on the Support line in regards to setting up and running SMS Basic/Advanced is “what kind of computer should I get?”  With that said, I thought I would outline some key items to consider on your next computer purchase that you’re using to run precision ag software.

Operating System:

Like most other precision ag desktop software programs, SMS Basic/Advanced is designed to run on a Microsoft Windows operating system (OS).  Currently SMS Basic/Advanced Version 10.0 supports running on:  XP (SP 3), VISTA (SP 2), and Windows 7.  (Note:  You can update the Service Pack (SP) on your computer for free by going to the Microsoft Windows Update page.)

One of the benefits of newer computers is you have the ability to get a 64-bit OS, which gives you added processing efficiency, as well the ability to use 4 GB or more of RAM.  Be aware that older software programs or computer hardware may not be compatible with a 64-bit OS, so talk to your local computer/electronics provider before upgrading if you wish to use those older items.


Any processor that was factory installed with your computer will run your precision ag software.  For those of you that are looking for a way to speed up performance with a new computer, consider getting a multi-core processor with a higher GHz rating.  Just as important is to consider getting a processor with a larger cache size.


The motherboard BUS speed is also something to take into consideration.  Since we are looking at this from a data processing standpoint, the higher the BUS speed the better.  Ideally this would have a similar MHz rating as your RAM.


SMS Basic/Advanced will work with the minimum RAM (memory) requirements for the OS's listed above.  A cheap way to speed up how fast your computer runs is to upgrade the RAM.  I recommend 3 GB for 32-bit computers or 6-8 GB if you have a 64-bit machine.  I would recommend getting RAM with the fastest MHz rating; such as 1066 or 1333MHz.  Check with your computer manufacturer or local computer shop for details on the amount of RAM your computer supports.

Graphics Card:

When ordering a graphics card, you will most likely have the option to choose between an integrated or dedicated graphics card.  While SMS does not benefit directly from a dedicated graphics card, I would recommend getting at least a 256 MB dedicated card.  This allows for the computer to keep up with other items your computer may be doing, especially if you run multiple programs at once.  A dedicated card also allows for cheaper repairs and upgrades in the event the graphics card goes bad.  It also is more likely to support multiple display screens and higher screen resolutions.

Due to the number of items to consider when purchasing a new computer, I will continue this post tomorrow and discuss other items that you should consider when purchasing a new computer.

Computer considerations for precision ag software (Part 2)

Ag Leader

Jun, 08 2010 - by Isaac Bowers

Creating reports using precision farming software

During this time of year, we get a lot of questions from customers concerning how many acres they planted for their FSA reports, how much of a particular product in a tank mix was applied, or what their productivity (acre/hour) was while driving through the field.  This is all information that can be determined by making reports in your precision ag desktop software.


In SMS, this can easily be done by clicking the New General Report icon on the main toolbar or by going to File - New - General Report.  There are several pre-defined reports that have already been created.  Here you will choose the report that best fits your needs.  For planting and spraying reports, I recommend starting with the Crop Type Summary Report and Product Summary Report.  The first two screens allow you to filter the data to be included in the report.  You will notice in SMS Basic/Advanced Version 10.0 we made changes to allow you to make reports for multiple operations at one time.  This will be helpful for those of you that are applying multiple products at the same time, such as applying starter fertilizer while planting.  The third screen will show you what items will be included for your report for each operation, and you have the ability to click the Edit button to make modifications if you like.  By clicking the Edit button, you have the ability to add additional attributes and properties as columns to the report.  I don't have room to list them all, but few possibilities include:

Productivity - area per hour the vehicle was covering in the field.

Total Product Amount Used/Needed - total number of bags of seed used based on as-applied information or the amount of bags needed based on  prescriptions or crop plans.

Start and End Date - dates when operations begin and end.

Also in Version 10.0, we added two new items for reports that are quite useful and can be seen in the Version 10.0 release video.  The first is the Sort List By drop down menu.  This allows you to choose one column to sort your reports by.  Examples of things you could sort by are: acres, application rate or even total amount used on the field.

The second item to take note of is the check box for Add Mix Component Attributes.  In the past if you wanted to see the total amount applied for items in your tank mix like glyphosate, AMS, water, etc, you would have to add each of those items manually.  In Version 10.0, you simply need to select Estimated Amount, or any other attribute, and check the Add Mix Component Attributes box and SMS will automatically tell you the values for all of the items within the tank mix.

On the final screen, you have the ability to choose the Summary Type. This determines the source of your information and allows you to change report colors, change the logo to be printed on the reports and save the settings for the next time you run the report.  To see a couple of sample reports, click the following links:

Planting – Crop Type Summary Report

Planting – Product Summary Report

Spraying – Product Summary Report

If you need help running a report or have questions, please feel free to contact our Support Team and we’ll be glad to help you out.

Ag Leader

May, 11 2010 - by Isaac Bowers

As you prepare to read in this spring's data…

Now that we are mid-way through the planting season, it would be a good time to read your data into your precision ag desktop software.  This is good for several reasons:

  • Verify that you have correctly set up your precision ag display.
  • Verify that the planter is applying the rates that variable-rate prescriptions called for.
  • Verify the operator is correctly changing Fields and Regions in the display while in the field.  If not, this is your chance to do some re-training.

As you get ready to read in files this spring, I recommend following these steps: 1.)  Make a backup of precision ag desktop software data and later burn the backup to a CD/DVD.

Like all of your other farm record-keeping processes, your data is valuable and your time is limited.  Making backups on a regular basis will help ensure that you have a restore point before you start making changes to the data in your software or in the event that you have computer issues down the road.  In SMS this can be done by going to Services - Backup.

2.)  Verify that you are on the latest version of your precision ag desktop software.

As precision ag displays get new firmware updates to perform the latest features, their file formats will almost inevitably change as well.  This means you will also need to update your precision ag desktop software to be compatible.  Ag Leader released SMS Basic/SMS Advanced Version 10.0 two weeks ago.  In V10.0, we have made changes to users working with different file formats including:  Ag Leader, AutoFarm, Case IH, CLAAS, John Deere, New Holland, ISO and Precision Planting - just to name a few.

3.)  Start reading in files.

In SMS Basic/SMS Advanced, you can read in files by clicking the Read Files icon on the main toolbar, or by going to File - Read Files.
Read Files image_v2
Choose the option to Read File(s) from a Supported Field Display or Monitor. On the following screen choose the appropriate manufacturer that you are working with.  When choosing a file selection/search method, I recommend choosing the option to Automatically Search a Memory Card or Drive Location and choose the drive for your card reader.  Then make sure that Include Subfolders in Automatic Searches is checked.  This will help ensure that all of the new files on your data card are selected.

File Selection image3

On the final screen, you will see the files that have not been read into SMS Basic/SMS Advanced.  Make sure that Auto-Create Management Items and Skip Processing Settings is turned ON to help expedite the read-in process.

After all the files have been read in, you will be able to make maps and reports of the data you have collected thus far during planting season.  If you have any questions regarding the above steps, give our support team a call and they'll help get you going.  Best of luck to everyone during the rest of this planting season!


Ag Leader

Apr, 13 2010 - by Isaac Bowers

Are you a "field doctor"?

Planting season has arrived.  Time to implement all the things you learned last year into your operation for the 2010 growing season.

If there is one thing I learned while growing up on a farm, it's that a farmer's job changes every day.  As an owner and/or operator, farmers are tasked with jobs ranging from electrician to mechanic to machinery operator and the list goes on and on; but how many of us would have thought to consider adding "field doctor" to this list?

Just like a doctor prescribes the amount and type of medicine to a patient, you have the ability to prescribe products and rates to the field.  The difference here is that the doctor doesn't have variable rate technology on his side.  Unlike the doctor at the clinic who only gets to choose one dosage to give his patient, you have the ability to choose multiple rates to apply within the same field.  This can be accomplished with any product type: seed, liquid or dry fertilizer, or a chemical.  Precision farming desktop software gives you the ability to reference one or more maps to create variable-rate prescriptions.  Examples of maps that can be referenced are:

  • Yield data (one or more years, or a layer with multiple years averaged together)
  • Soil test results
  • Soil type
  • Hand-drawn management zones
  • Irrigated vs. dryland zones
  • Vegetative index data base on imagery or crop sensors

By creating variable-rate prescriptions and using a display that is capable of controlling the rate of application, you have the ability to apply more inputs in the ares of the field that are going to give you a higher rate of return and less in ares that do not.  Prescriptions can also be used to ensure no product is applied where there may be environmental concerns, such as spraying certain chemicals near a river bank.  If creating prescriptions is a new concept for you, you can also use your software to create check strips in small areas of the field.

Prescription map featuring

After harvest is done, you can then query the information to find out if that is something you want try on a larger scale next year.

Check out the video below to learn how to become a "field doctor" using SMS Software.


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