Gingerich Farms Technology
Technology is fully integrated with our farm operations. Using the RTK GPS signal we are able to have sub-inch repeatable accuracy to control auto-steering functions, operate swath control, implement variable rate prescriptions, and record spatial data maps of yield, variety placement, fertilizer placement and field operations. Every major operation on our farm is recorded, producing a GPS referenced as-applied map. We also require any custom operators hired for any operation on our farm to use these same technologies.
All precision farming operations begin with two components. A GPS receiver and a computer or controller.
The GPS Receiver
Gingerich Farms uses the Real Time Kinematic (RTK) signal as the backbone of our precision farming operations. RTK allows us to repeat any operation within centimeters of the original operation. We are currently using John Deere Starfire 3000 receivers to acquire this signal.
The On-Board Computer
The computer is the brain of precision farming. This computer can be uploaded with various software packages to control many different farming tasks. These computers can control several operations simultaneously if needed. The monitors on these computers are often touch screen, which eliminates any keyboards in the tractor cabs. Gingerich farms currently uses the John Deere GS2 2600 or the John Deere GS3 2630 computer to control operations. We currently can control tractor steering functions (auto-trac), section control (swath control), and rate controllers with our computers. These computers also record many different measurements of an operation. These recordings are transferred to our office and uploaded into Apex to make colored maps of any operation done on the farm.
Auto-trac is an automated steering software that controls the tractors steering mechanism to follow a computer generated GPS referenced line spaced evenly across a field. This technology allows us to reach maximum efficiency from pass to pass as an overlap is no longer needed to ensure complete coverage. We can also record predetermined lines such as along the edge of a field. We then can follow this line at a later time, which makes starting a field easier.
Swath Control uses a geo referenced coverage map recorded by the on board computer and engages or shuts off an operations so that minimal overlap occurs. We use this technology on our planters and sprayers to minimize the costs associated with wasted seed or chemical.
Apex Office Software
Gingerich Farms uses the Apex Farm Management Software to manage our GIS data. This program allows us to manage or create guidance lines, create boundaries for the swath control to operate more effectively, write variable-rate prescriptions for any operation to be done in a certain field. This software is also used to read all the recorded operations off of the on board computers in the machinery. These maps allow us to visually see what products and how much of it went in a certain spot. After the combine harvests the field a georeferenced yield map is made and allows us to see if a previous applied product is helping or hurting grain yields in a certain location of the field.
The iPad and iPhone are quickly being integrated into Gingerich Farms precision farming tools. The ability to load as applied maps onto the devices and use the devices GPS signal to scout fields and check plots is making us faster at diagnosing and treating any issues in a field. These devices also allow us to return to the same spot in a field at different growth stages if needed.