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27 Feb 2023

Innovation on show at CropTec

As featured in Arable Farming Magazine

Innovation on show at CropTec

by Arable Farming Magazine January 2023 issue


With energy and input prices still soaring, many exhibitors at the recent CropTec Show were focused on helping growers improve the efficiency of their renewable energy, fertiliser, water and even data use.


Free nitrogen management tool

Fertiliser platform Atfarm will be free to use this coming season, Yara head of agronomy Mark Tucker announced at CropTec.

The announcement comes following feedback from farms using the technology last season, improvements seen in nitrogen use efficiency and also in light of the challenges currently faced by farmers.

Mr Tucker said: Yaras digital Atfarm platform helps farmers apply nitrogen more precisely.

Utilising satellite images to monitor crop growth, farmers and agronomists can create variable rate application maps in just minutes.

Nitrogen Farms are also able to use the N Tester BT to get field-specific nitrogen recommendations for their cereal crops, as well as monitoring the leaves nitrogen as the spring growth progress.

Harnessing cheaper power

As the cost of energy continues to peak, potato growers with on-farm renewable energy sources can utilise lower cost power through new software from Crop Systems.

SmartSola is a standalone new programme that looks at the power needed to run a store and, if that power is available from a renewable source such as solar or wind, utilises that power in preference to it being exported to the grid.

This maximises the use of cheap renewable energy to power stores and will work on up to 10 stores on-site, prioritising certain stores if necessary.

Control suite SmartSola can also operate with other Crop Systems software, as part of an integrated control suite for better control and lower running costs.

Drone-mounted radar

The AgriEPI Centre demonstrated a drone-mounted, ground-penetrating radar, which is operating as a research project.

The system is flown at a target high of one metre above the soil surface and allows moisture content mapping based on the conductivity on the soil surface below.

The scanning depth varies depending on the conditions.

However, a radar penetration of up to two metres underground could be possible.

As a new technology, the wider options of the system are relatively unknown.

Structures However, the ability to identify various water-contained structures or layers in the soil gives the possibility to scan root crops prior to harvest to produce yield estimations or create compaction maps, which could allow improved targeting of cultivation machinery.

The radar unit weights 3kg and is mounted to a standard DJI drone, which offers a flight time of 12-15 minutes.

Entry-level RTK steering

Usk-based Patchwork has launched an entry level RTK steering kit to operate on vehicles without a guidance ready steering controller.

The design uses an integrated steering wheel and drive motor to provide automated steering and can operate on either EGNOS, or RTK with a SIM card or base station correction.

Operated alongside the drive unit, a touch-screen controller is used to control the system.

Installation Patchwork says installation of the kit can be completed within 30 minutes and there is the option to move between vehicles on a seasonal basis.

The cost of the kit starts from £4,200.

Fine-tuning irrigation with weather monitoring

Following one of the driest summers on record, growers looking to use irrigation water more efficiently now have access to Sencrops Irricrop weather monitoring system.

Irricrop uses a solar radiation sensor and connected wind and rain gauges to calculate evapotranspiration and automatically generate water balance based on ultra-local weather data, crop type and soil texture.

This gives users access to water balance information adapted according to the water needs of each crop, custom soil calibration, and a daily update of total available water, as well as a seven day forecast, for better water management.

Sencrops Mark Herriman says: These stations allow you to know the water balance of your soil, so how much is entering the soil and how much is leaving.

The system counts the rainfall and water through irrigation provided by the farmer.

By then measuring the losses by evaporation of water from the soil and transpiration of the plant, it is possible to calculate the evolution of the soil water stock accurately, he adds.

Soil temperature sensor

Dutch start-up technology business RH3S previewed a prototype soil temperature sensor with integrated IsoBus connection.

Currently designed as an OEM component for existing machinery manufacturers, the sensor allows a soil temperature map to be created as the implement passes over and through the soil.

The commercial potential for this is quite varied, with the option to change the establishment depth depending on the target temperature to stopping planting if the temperature falls below a predetermined value.

Temperature map The system can also create a post-establishment temperature map of the field area.

Currently the unit requires bare soil to collect the data, necessitating the sensor position to be free of cover crop residue or surface trash.

Central tyre inflation system

Central tyre inflation system supplier PTG demonstrated a cut-away model of its trailer inflation system for ADR axles.

Using the hollow internal structure of the axle, the design uses pipework running through the hub and braking assembly, which connects to an external rotary union to deliver pressure and control lines to the tyre valves.

PTG says the design, which runs through the middle of the axle, removes the need for external pipework running over the wheel and can be retrofitted to existing trailed implements to offer tyre inflation across the whole vehicle.

Pressure feed The system draws a pressure feed from the braking system, with the adjustment of the tyre pressure controlled from the cab.

Controller for grain stores

Developed to allow remote control of grain store fans and burners, the Store Controller from Harvest Installations integrates with an iOS and Android app and communicates with the manufacturers fans and burners, alongside stirring augers.

The basis of the system is a data-SIM-enabled touch-screen, which is linked wirelessly to a group of burners/fans and two individual stirrers.

The system allows local control on each of the components to remain, allowing an override if needed.

Communicate Set up requires the operator to adjust the start and stop temperatures, with the option to remotely change the inverter drive of a fan to allow variable speed.

Currently, the system communicates with a group of burners, where the control temperature is taken from a single master unit.

However, this may be expanded in the future to allow a wider range of individual data inputs to be seen and adjusted.

Tool to integrate data across platforms

A new platform which integrates farm data across multiple platforms was launched by AgAnalyst at CropTec.

DataBaler enables data insights and machinery applications to become accessible to farmers through one integrated system.

AgAnalyst chairman Jim Williams said: Databaler is all about farm integration.

Integrate data Most people who have tried to integrate data from different platforms have given up as theyve found collating the last 20% of data is just too difficult.

Said to be compatible with most machinery software, DataBaler allows farmers to use one system and collate data from drilling, harvesting, spreading, spraying and sampling all onto one platform.

Mr Williams said: DataBaler was designed, built and delivered by AgAnalyst and can provide many benefits, including an increase in nitrogen use efficiency.

We are finding most farms put too much on so, with current prices, increasing application efficiency can create a huge saving.

With data collated in one place, farmers can manage variability in fields, enabling full control over input decisions, facilitating the ability to pinpoint profits to improve margins.

Farms have the opportunity to save a lot of money as the platform can work out where the field needs a nitrogen application without penalties on yield or quality, he added.

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