A new web-based technology project aims to connect machines of all brands with managers and suppliers, doing away with hurdles between machinery and farm management software.
The challenge of getting machines, implements and farm management software to ‘talk to each other’ has undoubtedly been a factor in the decidedly steady adoption of technology by many farmers.
Even with the wider use of IsoBus, transferring data from the tractor to an implement and vice-versa often requires costly software updates or investment in a fleet of equipment from the same manufacturer, which may not meet other needs.
The situation is complicated further when the operator wishes to incorporate recommendations from, or feed data back to, a commodity supplier or agronomist.
Aiming to tackle this, DKE-Data has sought to simplify the process with its Agrirouter data hub, designed to enable farmers and contractors to exchange data between machines and agricultural software applications and other hardware from different manufacturers.
Due for launch in February 2019, Agrirouter brings together 11 leading machinery manufacturers and a growing pool of software and hardware providers, which have adapted and developed their equipment to work with the web-based hub.
Partners Dr Jens Moller and Dr Johannes Sonnen developed the concept in 2014.
Dr Moller says: “The Agrirouter not only reduces interface problems, it also improves and simplifies many steps in the agricultural production process. In a few years’ time, data exchange, controlled and supervised by farmers and contractors, independent of manufacturers, will be part of everyday agricultural life.”
HOW DOES IT WORK?
TO use the system, the operator logs in via the website (my-agrirouter.com) using any internet enabled device and creates a ‘personal Agrirouter’ in the control centre on the website launchpad.
From the personal Agrirouter, a ‘market place’ can be selected which details available apps and telemetry boxes. The operator connects his required machine’s connectivity box (telemetry platform) or telemetry unit and selected apps to the Agrirouter.
This is achieved via a link to the provider’s website for a code to connect the app to the Agrirouter account or in the case of a telemetry box, by selecting a registration code.
The user can set rules, known as ‘routes’, to determine who exchanges which data with whom and to what extent.
For example, a farmer may wish to share the location of guidance lines and crop recommendations for a specific field with his contractor, but not for all fields growing that crop.
Data transfer takes place securely over fast networks in accordance with current data protection guidelines, and the Agrirouter does not store data.
The ‘LearnBox’ online tool provides virtual training, such as helping set up a routing or connect a machine, activated via ‘question mark’ interface buttons.
Commercial management is designed to be straightforward: when the end-user connects to an app, DKE-Data invoices the provider which invoices the farmer. Costs are said to be low, as the company has been set up as a not-for-profit organisation.
Retrofit telemetry units can also be connected to Agrirouter, allowing older tractors which do not have a telemetry box, or machines from manufacturers which have not signed up to Agrirouter to be used.
KUHN has tested applications, such as the transfer of prescription maps to the CCI 1200 terminal, for its fertiliser spreaders, and is also working on transferring guidance lines generated by a four-rotor rake to its balers.
In turn, the baler operator’s map showing the location and weight of each bale made can be relayed to the farm office.
Kuhn Farm Machinery’s product specialist Alex Birchall says: “In the UK, we see potential to simplify the transfer of data for operations such as fertiliser application and do away with USB sticks.
“But we need to get the agronomists on board, as many farms rely on them for the recommendations. We are also hoping to be able to work with a wider pool of farm management software providers.”
Muddy Boots Software has partnered with Agrirouter to offer precision farming solutions which link to its established farm management packages.
The company’s crop recording software, Greenlight Grower Management, is a cloud-based system which enables farmers and agronomists to access, update and share field and crop data plans and records in realtime.
More than half of UK farmland is now managed through Muddy Boots software.
Senior business development manager Paul Thomas says: “We believe Agrirouter will offer a low-cost solution for farmers to connect data from agronomists’ recommendations to their machines, then to relay back as applied data for ongoing management purposes, which will complement our existing portfolio of services.
"We are currently developing the integration which will go live for selected farmers to test in the early part of 2019, with the goal of going out to the broader market by the end of the year.
“Using Agrirouter, we can overcome issues with machinery being incompatible with outside software, while keeping customer data secure. Transfer of data will also be more efficient, doing away with the need for paper records.”
Customers will access Muddy Boots apps either directly from an Agrirouter or from a link on the Muddy Boots’ system, and can use either single or a combination of services, via an annual subscription.
Mr Thomas says: “It is becoming increasingly important for farmers to be able to access their data from a range of digital platforms, and the simplicity of Agrirouter allows this.”
A further benefit for the company, he suggests, is that Agrirouter is to be made available in a number of countries, so a single Muddy Boots solution can be developed for customers internationally.
THE system is designed to be non-discriminatory between brands, says Dr Sonnen. This allows operators to access application, recording and management data from a range of software providers.
Machinery manufacturers are approaching connectivity in different ways. Of the 11 signed up so far, Agco and Same Deutz-Fahr have developed tractor-based platforms, while those which were already using the CCI 1200 IsoBus terminal (Kuhn, Rauch, Lemken and Krone) have the option to use it as a connectivity unit.
Agco’s Global Fuse manager Christoph Zecha says: “Agrirouter gives our customers the opportunity to connect implements and software using a single terminal in the tractor or machine. The Vario Doc Pro interface can be used on Fendt tractors from the 500 Vario Series upwards, larger combines including the new Ideal, and the Rogator sprayer. We will also offer the Task Doc interface on MF and Valtra tractors from 2019.
“Fendt has its own server for Agrirouter and has connected to 15 farm management software systems, allowing the customer to use them via just one connection, for example to upload an application map, send it to the machine terminal, then receive the work record. This data can also be used with our Next Machine management tool, which is connected via the Agrirouter.”
Krone and Holmer are offering telemetry boxes for their machines which connect to Agrirouter.
Holmer’s system has been developed in conjunction with Bosch Electronics and allows a farmer or contract manager to generate a job and send it to the beet harvester, which can then send harvest data back.
This system also works with the specialist German beet software Farmpilot. Holmer says all machines from the T4 harvester onwards can be retrofitted with the Homer platform and it will be built into machines from the 2018 model year onwards.
Krone fits Krone Smart Connect telemetry boxes as standard to forage harvesters from the Big X 680 upwards, and they can also be specified for Big Pack balers and older harvesters.
In addition to harvest data from the forager, potential uses include reporting locations, weights and number of bales.
Krone’s Stefan Niehof says: “It is very simple to add an endpoint [connected machine or software app], simply by entering a registration code on my Agrirouter. The advantage is that endpoints only have to be entered once when they are connected and the Agrirouter remembers them for future use. But the farmer has full control over what data is shared, so it is easy to manage several contractors or handle multiple information sources.”
Grimme uses the ‘my Grimme’ digital platform on a tablet or smartphone to send data to the tractor’s connectivity box, connecting its harvesters for data transfer.
Horsch is working with OSB-AG Box and Reichhardt, both of which offer retrofit telemetry units.
The BHTronik unit from OSB-AG connects to an existing IsoBus system in the tractor and uses it to offer bi-directional data transfer and connection to the Agrirouter.
Reichhert’s IsoFit cable harness provides an IsoBus connection to a virtual terminal, such as an Android tablet, via the IsoFlex connectivity module and/or to a configurable joystick for implement control, and offers apps such as section control, variable rate application and the Servus service adviser.
Kuhn has developed the Kuhn EasyTransfer app for the Agrirouter, which allows the operator to ‘drag and drop’ a task to the CCI 1200 terminal and manages any ‘zip’ formats, avoiding the need to decompress or copy and paste documents.
Before pressing send, Kuhn EasyTransfer displays the fields and allows for a final check.
The terminal is connected to Agrirouter via WiFi and a mobile phone internet connection, receiving the ‘zip’ file or the task and importing it without operator intervention.
Once the work is completed, data on the operation, including any tractor management information, is returned to Kuhn EasyTransfer for use with farm management software.