GPS has come a long way for consumers and industry professionals. One of the most promising uses of GPS is for farmers and ranchers. GPS gives farmers exceptional data to run their business and protect their crops. The GPS farming benefits provide them with the tools to not only cultivate their land but plan for future harvests.
What is GPS for Farming and Why Use It?
GPS (Global Positioning System) helps farmers better maintain and produce crops through data collection and site mapping. With the implementation of GIS (Geographic Information System), farmers can combine precision farming and geographic data to map and manage their farms. With this data, farmers can measure things like soil nutrition, moisture levels, insects, and more, specific to a location on the GPS. GPS allows for precision measurement and planning of farm fields. Farmers can map out different locations on their farms to make better use of their land and help replenish parts of the soil.
For example, a farmer would map out the entire location of his farm on his GPS. From there, he would divide that farm into sections based on when he might be growing or what his planting. Next, they may run some tests for the soil in each section for nutrients. Those nutrients are key to farmers being successful. Afterward, a farmer would use a GPS to start the planting process, making sure rows are precise and no plot of land is being over-utilized. He can manage his farm year after year using precise data and improving results.
Some of the common GPS farming uses:
- Soil Sampling
- Yield Mapping
- Weed Removal
- Fertilizing & Pesticides
- Farming Guidance
- Highlight Water Sources & Irrigation
Types of GPS Devices
GPS Smartphone Application:
Some companies, such as FieldBee, offer mobile GPS applications to navigate farms and record work. These apps usually require purchase or subscription and are limited in scope due to only being a smartphone app with no hardware. While these apps are always being updated and improved, they will not match the robust equipment provided by GPS manufacturers. Fortunately, these can be a great starting point to use auto-steering or get used to GPS services. Some apps allow you to import information from external hardware so you can upgrade slowly over time. Some producers also pair their apps with Bluetooth devices to provide better GPS accuracy.
External GPS Tracker:
An external GPS tracker device is small and placed on the outside of your tractor or equipment. These devices can be great for mapping fields but are not quite suitable for precision farming due to varying location accuracy. These devices are usually cheaper, but that’s because their usage is limited during conditions such as low light and fog. However, these can be great additions to your arsenal for jobs like spraying.
Smart antennas provide more accuracy and can work in fog or at night. These devices are also great for mapping out areas and spraying. They come in multiple configurations whether you want to place them on top of your equipment or inside the cabin. Some devices can be upgraded to an RTK system for precision farming. While these systems provide more accuracy, they cannot handle precise measurements that would allow you to be within a couple of inches of your intended target.
Additional Reading: Fleet Management Software for Construction Equipment
RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) System:
An RTK system provides you with the most accurate GPS system on the market. For reference, you can expect accuracies within 1in.-2in. range. Some systems are designed to integrate with other pieces of equipment and collect data such as your tractor, your combine, and your application rig. You’ll have an RTK receiver that picks up information from the satellite and relays that information. These systems are great for low light conditions and can provide the most up-to-date information.
We recommend that you research each option individually as each manufacturer has different features and price points that could affect your operations.
GPS Farming Benefits:
GPS provides several agricultural benefits that can’t be ignored. If you are looking to improve your farming efficiency and prepare for the future, you need a GPS.
Work in Low Light Conditions
Most farmers are in the fields before the sun even rises. GPS provides an accurate way to operate machinery in low-light situations. You don’t have to stop procedures just because the weather isn’t clear. Instead, you can stay on schedule and make sure your fields are properly maintained.
Autosteer allows you to take your hands off the wheel when performing farming duties while still being accurate. Just set your course for the day and boom your off to the races. The system will use GPS data to accurately move your machinery.
Till and Plant Accurately
You can strip-till a section of your farm, and then accurately plant with a GPS. There is no more guesswork or wasted space when you are using a GPS system. In fact, you won’t be as accurate without using a GPS system. This is critical for managing farm nutrients and staying on course when seeding. Accurate and consistent planting will maximize your yield during harvest. This also puts you in the best position to water and fertilize your crop in the most accurate way possible. Ensuring that your crop has the nutrients to succeed.
Variable Rate Application
Another GPS farming benefit is the usage of variable rate applications. Farmers and ranchers do not always need a uniform application of seeding, fertilizers, pesticides, or other materials within their fields. GPS technology allows you to vary the rate of seeds or chemicals on your pastures so you best service your crops. This should produce a higher yield come harvest time. Additionally, it can help negate some of the harmful spread of pesticides, so you don’t overspray an area.
Pays for Itself
There is a wide variety of GPS systems for farmers. You can find GPS devices starting at around $100 and going up from there. Importantly, you can make improvements to your system as time goes on and you field better harvests. Because of the data you will be gathering, you can improve your practices. In turn, this will hopefully improve profits. Meaning, that the device should pay for itself relatively quickly.
Better Management of Your Farm
Wasted time is wasted money. Instead of wasting fuel or precious resources, GPS services can map out the best routes to complete activities. You can also improve your efficiency by zoning areas within your farm. GPS can create different zones through geofencing. This is great for farmers and ranchers who are looking to maximize their time and space. GPS can be critical for navigating farm areas on time especially in low light situations. Not to mention, you can micromanage the soil of your farm, ensuring it has the right nutrients.
One of the best GPS farming benefits is that the technology is always improving. With timely updates, your GPS system can improve and do more over time. In the future, your GPS device could interact with more objects to provide even more services.
GPS Fleet Management and Farming
Do you have a large farm with multiple tools and large machinery? if so, one of the best investments you could make is to pair a GPS system with fleet management or fleet tracking.
Fleet management is a system designed to track and monitor vehicles or items. While originally used for trucking or delivery services, many companies offer products and services designed for farmers. These tools can help you improve your farming as well as keep items safe. Common items you could use a GPS tracker with include:
- ATV vehicles
- And more!
Navigate Your Land with Ease
GPS makes tracking your farm process simple and effective. Even in low-light situations or with new employees, GPS fleet management software can help you pick the path forward for you and your crew. You can take the most efficient routes for your business and maximize your time. You’ll also be able to compile this data year over year for the best results. You can negate wasted fuel and prevent wear and tear on your machines—all in record time.
Track equipment and machinery
If you are a farmer or rancher, then you most likely have a lot of machinery and tools. These tools are often necessary to complete farm functions such as a tractor, livestock trailer, 4-wheeler, etc. Keeping track of all these devices is easier said than done. Fortunately, GPS tracking software can make sure you never misplace your machinery. This is crucial when working in fields with hundreds of acres and multiple teams. You can keep everything logged and accounted for within the system. Furthermore, these GPS devices can help you track lost or stolen machinery. You’ll never have to worry about being far away from your tools.
When it comes to hiring help, GPS fleet management help manage your farm and plan work for your crews. You’ll also be able to track where your trailers are located and make sure everyone stays on task. The best part? You manage this all from one console and in real-time.
Scale your business
Looking to add more tools and personnel to your business? GPS fleet management can help you get there. You can pinpoint how much ground you can cover in a day and scale your business when you need to. GPS makes hundreds of acres of land quantifiable. You’ll know exactly how much ground you can cover and how much help you will need. It's one of the crucial GPS farming benefits that farmers can't live without.
Some advanced GPS systems can help you keep track longevity of your tools. Whether that be a tractor or harvester, you can be sure that your equipment won’t fail you when you need them most. These diagnostic tools can help you stay on top of regular maintenance as well as negate downtime. A valuable GPS farming benefit.
Other Considerations for GPS Farming Equipment
Where will you place your GPS?
Since there are different types of GPS devices with different applications, the location of your GPS device matters a lot. Whether you place your GPS outside your cabin or inside, you want to make sure that it receives a good signal. Make sure you know the optimal position for your device before buying.
Know the Update Rate
The update rate is important because it is the rate of data per second that is sent to the machine. The faster that data is sent to the GPS device, the faster the device will operate. While this isn’t a make-or-break feature, it is important to many farmers as it can save them time.
How Will GPS Improve Your Specific Needs?
Not every GPS offers the same level of accuracy. For complicated jobs, you will need a highly accurate GPS system. For simple tasks such as mapping or spraying, you don't need that complex of the system. Before purchasing, write down the features you need to better manage your farm or ranch.
Some GPS systems can work well with multiple devices, software, or different machinery. Other systems may not. Again, this comes back to knowing what features you need out of the GPS devices. If you want the GPS to interact with a different piece of equipment or be used in multiple ways, contact the manufacturer. For instance, do you need your GPS to interact with fleet management software?
Additional Reading: 6 Reasons You Need Pest Control Fleet Management
Cost of GPS Farming Equipment
For the most basic GPS equipment for farming, pricing can start around $100. However, devices can range into thousands of dollars or come with a subscription depending on what type of system you need. It’s best to seek out a GPS service that specializes in farming that can help you define what you need. These will often interact with some type of fleet management software.
Especially if you want some of the more advanced features for precision farming.
If you are ready to find out more about GPS farming benefits and devices 360Connect can help you. We help customers find high-quality suppliers in their area that are specific to their needs. Just fill out our form and we will contact you ASAP!