What to consider when upgrading sprayer control - AS Communications (UK) Ltd.

What to consider when upgrading sprayer control

Not only is it becoming more expensive to replace equipment, but the supply chain challenges can make it a process taking 12-18 months, something new our customers are having to contend with. These challenges, amongst others, can see owners and operators look toward upgrading the existing fleet, often more cost effective and an investment which can be spread across multiple vehicles.

When looking into the options to upgrade a sprayer there are some key things to consider which our team go through on your behalf, these aim to help you understand what may be required, or at least some things to look out for.

Below we will explore the following considerations in more detail;

  • Current sprayer system and control method
  • Requirement of rate control or both rate and section control
  • Desired control method; Trimble Field IQ or ISOBUS
  • Accuracy requirements; pass to pass and repeatability
  • Future requirements such as steering
  • Other machines or implements in the fleet

Current sprayer system and control method

One key thing to note is how your sprayer operates, is it a ‘flow based’ or a ‘pressure based’ system? Trimble systems are compatible with both, so it is important to understand which is present on your implement or vehicle, it may dictate what parts are/ are not required. In addition to this, what are the existing controllers on the machine (if any) and what functionality do they have? Does your mounted/ trailed/ self propelled sprayer have a control box in the cab? If so, does this already have any GPS assisted section control or is it all manually controlled using switches? Understand the capacity for your machines control e.g. how many sections does it have, note the control method and existing control systems as these can be integrated or in some cases, completely replaced.

Requirement of rate control or both rate and section control?

Referred to in the above, our systems are able to control both flow and pressure based machines in different ways, understanding what you have and what you ‘wish’ to have is key in configuring your solution. Our solutions can control upwards of 200 sections with GPS input, but only if the machine has the physical ability to turn these on/ off. Our rate control systems allow you to improve accuracy of application but also capture what is being applied. We also have prescription functionality, this allows you to apply product based on your own or an agronomists generated maps through the display. With varying levels of complexity, if you consider what it is you want to control from the outset, it makes configuring your solution easier but also allows us to future proof it, making sure your investment is beneficial in the long term.

Desired control method, Field IQ or ISOBUS?

This may sound more complicated than it is, essentially there are “two languages” for us to communicate with your sprayer, each is a different product and they have their advantages depending on your business situation.

Trimble Field IQ

This is a Trimble system which can control both rate and section control, retrofit it will involve mounting of ECU(s) to your machine and integration with the existing control functions such as a master switch. Running through the Trimble Precision IQ system on a display it will allow you to control section and rate with user friendly screen graphics, all while being familiar with the operators existing controls. Accurately applying material based on GPS position and turning sections on/ off with programmable latencies, Field IQ can be configured and tuned to a wide range of machines.

Trimble ISOBUS

Using an ISOBUS ECU can deliver the same functionality as Trimble Field IQ but with increased compatibility, this system will integrate with any existing ISOBUS terminal, whether that be a standalone display (E.g. GFX 750) or an integrated display such as a Fendt Vario Terminal. Operators looking to reduce the investment cost of a standalone display could benefit from this option, utilising the existing cabling and display on the tractor can make real sense. For those with no ISOBUS vehicles on farm, there is an option to fit a retrofit ISOBUS harness and use a Trimble display as an ISOBUS terminal. When choosing this option, you will be bringing an ISOBUS terminal into your business, this can often be utilised elsewhere in the fleet, controlling a fertiliser spinner or baler for example.

Accuracy Requirements?

Both of the above options are available with Trimble receivers but you will want to consider what your needs are going to be in the future to get the most from your investment. There are two receivers available with the above systems; Nav 500 and NAV 900.

The Trimble NAV 500 is an entry level receiver which will deliver accuracy of <40cm pass to pass utilising the EGNOS satellite network which is free in the UK. The signal is not repeatable therefore lines could potentially drift between leaving the field to refill the tank and returning to spray. EGNOS accuracy will be reflected in both the pass to pass accuracy and also the position as machines enter or cross the headland, which will have an effect on the sections being activated.

The Trimble NAV 900 receiver has a lot more flexibility when it comes to signal, it can deliver anything from EGNOS (<40cm) to CenterPoint RTX Fast (2.5cm), even RTK Radio with additional hardware. If you realise you may require additional accuracy now or in the future, it would be worth considering the NAV 900 so you do not need to trade in/ swap out a NAV 500 when the time comes. We frequently see customers using RangePoint RTX (<15cm) for spraying applications, a signal available through the NAV 900 and subscription based like CenterPoint RTX Fast (2.5cm), ultimately the choice is yours an can be made as your needs change.

What are your future requirements?

This is a key question, hardware is no more than a foundation to the specification of your solution, however the foundation is as important in technology as it is in construction. Give some thought to your needs in the next 12 to 60 months, what are you likely to be wanting your technology to do? If we take steering for example; if this is a potential bolt on in the next few years it is worth considering the receiver purchase now to future proof your investment. The NAV 500 receiver is able to control an EZ Steer Motor or a SAM 200 Motor c/w EZ Pilot functionality, nothing more. Therefore, if you are considering an Auto-Guide Ready Tractor or wish to have a SAM 200 with EZ Pilot Pro/ Autopilot Motor Drive, the NAV 900 is the better long term investment. Due to the built in accelerometers and gyroscopes the NAV 900 can control more steering options and requires no additional hardware, this lends itself to being easier to transfer between vehicles too.

Other machines or Implements in the fleet?

Leading from the above paragraph, what else is in your fleet which may be able to utilise some of this incoming sprayer technology? With Field IQ there will inevitably be a display and a receiver coming into the business, this is the same technology which could be used to steer another vehicle, or control an implement not being used at the same time as the sprayer. Consider ISOBUS as an upgrade option to your sprayer and you could have a display which is an ISOBUS terminal in your machine, could this  be used elsewhere too? Often customers will purchase a new implement which comes with a control box from the manufacturer, if this machine is ISOBUS compatible there is a good chance your new display/ receiver used to control your sprayer upgrade could also be utilised to control this implement too, saving you a pretty penny in the process. Give some thought to your whole fleet at the time of purchasing to get the most return for you.

These are just some of the common discussions we have with customers when they are looking to upgrade existing machines or implements, the theory is the same for mounted, trailed and even self propelled machines. Our team of area managers and engineers can run through these processes with you and help confirm what can or cannot be done in advance of any money being outlaid. We often find solutions for both new and existing equipment, we can integrate with most brands and are fully supportive to work with the dealers and suppliers of your vehicles or implements to make sure we are getting the best possible solution for you.

If you are considering your options to renew or upgrade your equipment, do reach out to us and discuss your requirements, there could be savings to me made and not just in chemical.


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