International Perspectives – CS Arable Services
CS Arable Services, owned and operated by Chris Shepherd, started back in 1996 and was the result of a previous business partner retiring, allowing Chris to buy out the contracting part of that business. At that time there were 11 full-time staff plus a fitter.
Fast forward to today and the business is a lot leaner, more efficient. They currently the have three full-time sprayer operators: Richard, Nick and Daryl plus Chris, as well as two office staff (Christine and Cathy) who take care of the day to day admin tasks.
CS Arable run four Bateman RB35 36m self-propelled sprayers plus a Knight self-propelled sprayer that takes care of the specialist task of suspension fertiliser application. The company covers between 35-42,000ha per year, depending on what is in season, as well as the weather. 2018 was a tough year due to weather which meant the two spring applications of N were amalgamated into one, thus reducing the application hectares quite significantly. A similar trend happened with crop protection application as well.
Prior to using Ag Leader, a competitive precision ag system was used for many years. It was about 11-12 years ago when they made the switch to an InSight™ display and a DirectCommand® system fitted to a MultiDrive machine they had for applying suspension fertiliser. There was also an Edge™ display fitted to a Bateman but this was soon changed for an InSight.
Once the Ag Leader® Integra display was launched in 2009, Chris upgraded his machines to this display over a period of time and also had a couple of OnTrac2™ assisted steering systems fitted. 2011 saw their first integrated steering system fitted to a Knight sprayer in the form of a ParaDyme®. Today, Chris now runs SteerCommand™ on all but one of the machines with RTK and InCommand® 1200 displays. The NTRIP RTK signal is provided by UK Ag Leader distributor Precise Solutions via their F1 RTK country-wide NTRIP network. This also allows him to use AgFinti® on all his displays, though only currently uses it for background maps but is interested in using DisplayCast® to transfer data easily between machines.
When I asked Chris why he chose Ag Leader in the first place, his reasons were very clear:
- User interface very intuitive and easy to use.
- Summary reports allowed him to see easily what had been done.
- Same display across all vehicles allows flexibility to swap drivers between machines depending on the job.
- Compared to the competative systems he had at the time, the InSight display had far more memory and allowed him to store field boundaries, AB lines etc… all on the display rather than external storage devices.
- No-one else could offer what Ag Leader could for controlling a self-propelled sprayer.
Even today he sees no reason to swap to another system, though one of his questions was “what will Santa Claus be bringing this Christmas for 2020?” Like many others, he does have his own list of features that he feels would further enhance the Ag Leader system.