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5 Benefits of Farm GPS Tracking + What Today’s Farmers Think About It Brian Dziuk | Feb 25, 2021 11:55:48 AM

Thanks to technologies like GPS tracking, “Farming is a lot sexier than it used to be… and a lot more efficient,” says Charles Davis, Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. It’s true; GPS-based applications have led to precision farming, improving farm planning, field mapping, soil sampling, tractor guidance, crop scouting, variable rate applications, yield mapping, and more. So, let's take a closer look at how GPS is changing the way farming is done (also known as “smart agriculture”) and hear from some farmers in their own words.

Farm GPS Tracking Leads to Precision Farming

Precision farming, or precision agriculture, is changing the way farmers view their land (and how they profit off of it). Where farmers once treated all of their fields the same, the introduction of high technology tools, such as data collection sensors and GPS tracking systems, allows them to treat each field as an individual piece of land. 

Of course, some farmers believe that precision agriculture can only benefit big farms with large capital investments, major agribusinesses, and those with IT experience. Fortunately, that’s simply not true. These technologies are both cost-effective and user-friendly, and can benefit all farmers, and it’s working.

Today, farmers are becoming more productive and efficient in their precision farming activities thanks to farm GPS. Many use it for mapping field boundaries, roads, and irrigation systems. They can also pinpoint problem areas in crops such as weeds, pests, or disease in order to make future management decisions. GPS even allows farmers to work during low visibility field conditions such as rain, dust, fog, and darkness!

“The accuracy of GPS allows farmers to create farm maps with precise acreage for field areas, road locations, and distances between points of interest. GPS allows farmers to accurately navigate to specific locations in the field, year after year, to collect soil samples or monitor crop conditions.” – GPS.GOV

And then there’s crop dusting. Crop dusters equipped with GPS can navigate accurately over fields, applying chemicals only where needed, minimizing chemical drift, and reducing the number of chemicals needed. Another bonus? This benefits the environment, helping preserve the planet for future generations.

Types of Farm Assets to Track

GPS tracking devices can be used to track just about any type of agricultural equipment. A good GPS is built tough and operates even in the rough conditions of the agricultural field. You can use GPS tracking on any of the following:

Harvesters

Tractors

Trailers

Harrow Beds

Sprayers

Loaders

HedgBalers

Conveyors

Swathers

Crop Dusters

Plows

Cultivators

 

5 Benefits of GPS Tracking Devices in Agriculture

Let’s explore some of the ways that men and women in the agriculture and farming industry can put GPS tracking technology to work in their field!

1. Create Virtual Field Boundaries 

A geofence is an invisible, virtual fence. When a GPS device crosses the “fence,” a response is triggered. Geofences are used to keep things in (alerting you if a vehicle or piece of equipment is removed from your land) and to keep things out (alerting you of a restricted area or an area that needs to be left alone for a while for soil cultivation).

Geofences also help farmers mark areas that require tending (fertilizing or harvesting), identify locations that have been treated by pesticides or are considered organic growth areas, and isolate land where livestock may be grazing to prevent farm animal accidents or injury.

2. Track Farm Equipment and Workers

The vast amount of acreage used in farming can make keeping track of expensive farm vehicles and equipment a challenging task. GPS tracking devices and fleet management solutions make identifying where vehicles and equipment are located easy. Let’s say a major storm is predicted to pass through part of your land; you can check to see if any of your assets are in harm’s way and have them moved if necessary to avoid damage. 

GPS tracking also gives visibility into where field workers are located at all times; this can aid in decision making and improve communication. Plus, with real-time monitoring of your gear, less supervision is required which means fewer workers can manage larger areas, reducing the cost of seasonal labor.

3. Protect Against Theft

The most recent report from the National Equipment Register (NER) cites data from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) showing that there were more than 10,000 reports of stolen farm and construction equipment in 2016. Through farm GPS tracking and geofencing, this can be greatly reduced. Not only will you always know where your vehicles and equipment are, if one is stolen, recovery is much easier as authorities can follow the GPS tracking.

4. Improve Farming Routes

When you’re tending to a vast amount of land, being efficient can be difficult, with drivers and operators always having to know just the right route to take. With GPS tracking for farm equipment, navigation becomes a cinch. Now, you can keep a record of land that has already been tended to so field writers don’t waste time with land that’s already been addressed. By adhering to the most efficient routes, you’ll also reduce fuel consumption and wear and tear on your vehicles and equipment.

5. Optimize Farm Equipment Life Cycles

GPS farm equipment lasts longer! Farmers can prolong the life of their equipment by using GPS-based systems to proactively manage equipment maintenance via engine hour tracking. In addition, monitoring crucial vehicle and equipment diagnostic information can help identify potential problems early on so they can be serviced sooner rather than later. This reduces expensive repairs by applying small fixes that cost less. 

When it’s time to sell and replace a piece of equipment, farmers who’ve used GPS tracking can demonstrate that a vehicle or other asset was well-maintained in order to negotiate a high resale price.

What Do Today’s Farmers Think About Farm GPS?

Moss Perrow Sr. has seen a lot of change on his family farm over the years, but the 83-year-old says GPS has been another story. His sons added GPS on all the farm equipment, including the tractors, cotton pickers, and sprayers, about 10 years ago and it's been a game-changer. “That is what does all the work,” says Drake Perrow, one of the sons. “You plant by GPS and once you set it up, that is all there is to it.”

For the Perrows, it was peanuts that persuaded them to invest in GPS. “We had odd rows and it was a nightmare to spray and getting equipment turned around,” Drake recalls. “You were planting and you were worn out at the end of the day, physically and mentally. Trying to stay on a row with equipment trying to pull you back and forth was tough. The next year we all had GPS, and the nightmare has turned into a pleasant dream.”

Drake continues, “We have gone from four or five trips to one trip to get [the peanuts] planted. How much time and money are you saving? It is unbelievable.” In addition, the farm GPS has allowed the farm to cut back to only a handful of employees. “We can do more with less,” Drake said.

Read more about what today’s farmers are saying about GPS agriculture in this story from the Quad-City Times.

Farm GPS Tracking Devices from Rastrac

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “...even as the amount of land and labor used in farming declined, total farm output more than doubled between 1948 and 2015.” This can be attributed to new farming technologies that let farm owners and operators produce greater output with less effort. 

By improving routes, monitoring equipment location and performance, and setting geofencing boundaries. GPS for agriculture is doing its part to help. To learn more about farm asset management with GPS tracking, reach out to a Rastrac expert today!

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