Written by Tom Carnell from Tramline TEC, formed in May 2021.
We were founded with the aim of providing solutions to problems in Agriculture, where the problems are normally caused by the need to control something. Why do we need to control something? So much of farming is without control. Weather, disease, pests, weeds, climate – all uncontrollable. This makes it even more important to control well the things that we can control.
Why is this relevant to Direct Drilling? It is even more important to be able to control what you can well when you add in cover and companion crops, beneficial insects, teas and coatings. When you control something well you can determine what effect it has had on the result. As an example, take adding a companion crop. If you do not place it well you will have no uniformity and therefore you will not know whether the companion crop worked or not – indeed you may draw the conclusion that it hasn’t worked as you have not ended up with the result that you expected, and sthat result may have been down to the inaccurate placing of that companion crop rather than the crop itself.
What can we control? We can control pretty much anything with a control system be it liquid or solid. We can control liquid fertiliser, Liquid Teas, granular fertilisers, seeds, sludges, pellets, manure, compost, etc. The controls can be on the machine and off the machine. Most implements on farm have controllers supplied as standard from the manufacturer. A lot of the time these controllers will not satisfy the needs of a modern farm. Retrofit controllers can be fitted to machines to give added benefits. These benefits can be:
• ISOBUS. This enables the machine control to be displayed on the tractors UT (on an ISOBUS compliant tractor). When the UT has task control and section control unlocked this will take control of the machine allowing the application of variable rate plans and individual row or section control of the machine. Multiple controllers can use the same UT. Additional UTS can be added to enable the separation of tasks – for example autosteer on one screen, tractor functions on another and the Implement on the third. Modern screens can “partition” and offer multiple displays on one screen. Its [possible to have multiple ISOBUS controllers on one UT – just because there is only one ISOBUS socket on the tractor doesn’t mean only one ISOBUS implement can be connected.
• Multiple channels. Often the standard controller will only control the standard machine and be unable to add extra functions. For example, you have a seeder which has 3 hoppers and you wish then to add liquid fertiliser and slug pellets or Avadex. The standard controller will only control the 3 hoppers or channels. Retrofit controllers can control up to 8 channels and if they are ISOBUS can offer the ability to have 8 different variable rate plans.
• Self-calibration. More modern seeder controllers can be fitted with counting sensors which allow the seeder to calibrate itself and not have to be calibrated by the operator. The main advantage of these systems is the ability to apply seedrates in seeds per m2, removing the need for calculations using the thousand grain weight to get Kg/Ha rates.
• Blockage and counting sensors, or a mix of both can be added to most seeders on the market, giving confidence that every seed has been planted where it should be and opportunities for Blackgrass and other .to grow are removed.
• Sharing of data into the farm management system to show live data of where the machine is and how its performing and the ability to look at historic data to see why an area of a field yielded well. With the Precision Planting system its possible to look at this data down to a single seed level (singulated seed)
• Precision placement of fertiliser. Have you ever wondered what effect placing fertiliser in the furrow, to the side of the furrow or on top of the furrow has? We have controllers that will apply in all of these locations which combined with yield mapping will allow you to see what effect each of these variants has on your final crop.
• Depth control. This is interesting and also hard to get right. As we all know there are so many variables when you travel across a field in terms of soil type, compaction levels and moisture levels. Complex systems have loadcells on each row and row by row vary the pressure on the row to plant the seed into moisture. Simple systems allow the adjustment of whole machine row pressure from the cab.
Controls and control systems are not limited to tractors and implements. Grain dryer control systems can be dated with obsolete parts leading to costly breakdowns in the middle of a wet harvest. We can build new control systems or update existing control systems and add in Wi-Fi connectivity to provide operator alarms when there is a problem. Where there is no WiFi we can add in point-to-point retransmitters if Wi-Fi is close by or 4G routers when there is no Wi-Fi.
We can supply probes for grain stores that can be linked to a Wi-Fi network and will alarm if moisture, temperature or humidity values are exceeded. Weather stations can be added into these networks that can then be programmed to control fans in grain stores depending upon humidity and temperature of both the grain and the environment.