The SmartFirmer from Precision Planting was hailed as a breakthrough in planting technology during beta tests a year ago. It provides insight into what’s happening inside the seed trench during planting.
No doubt Precision Planting engineers realized that measuring things inside the seed trench would require more display space inside the cab and streamlined ways to handle data. To those not steeped in the world of big data, needing to upgrade display screens because an innovative product is added seems like an unintended consequence.
SmartFirmers — which mount and act like Keeton Seed Firmers but also include an optical sensor to take various measurements — are available for 2018, says Dale Koch, product manager for Smart Firmers.
Data and more data
SmartFirmers on each row will measure five parameters, including soil moisture, temperature and organic matter, on the go, Koch says. “Instead of getting off the tractor and digging five seeds in one part of the field to make decisions on planting depth for the whole field, you’re getting thousands of measurements taken over the entire field which is available to help you make those same decisions,” he says.
“We’re shining a flashlight into the seed trench to see what conditions are like and if we’re doing the best job of planting that we can,” he adds.
Koch says it’s the next logical step in Precision Planting’s story of improving planter performance. “First we shined the flashlight on row meters with MeterMax stands and fine-tuned performance,” he says. “Then we shined the light on downforce. We used a load pin, invented decades earlier, in a new application. We learned there was variation in one pass across the field in force exerted by planter units. Precision Planting engineers developed AirForce to help smooth out down pressure across a single pass.”
The next step was figuring out that down pressure on each row across the planter can also vary, he says. DeltaForce was developed to adjust pressure hydraulically on individual row units. Information from load pins flowing into the cab added data that needed to be managed in the SeedSense 20/20 monitor.
Now the flashlight shines into the trench, courtesy of SeedFirmer. The next challenge is to handle the sudden influx of five new sets of data.
The new 20/20 monitor with a 10-inch screen, available this year, is a response to displaying more data so the operator can understand it, Koch says. Maps display in the center, with data on either side. Or you can couple two 10-inch screens and have maps on one and data on the other, he says.
Coming soon, now in beta testing, is a 16-inch screen on a 20/20 monitor. You will also be able to hook two of those in tandem.
“The goal is to have readouts from SmartFirmers that you can understand, and which will help you make decisions on the go,” Koch says. He’s confident that the new data collected will increase the odds of placing seeds more consistently in favorable growing conditions.