Automatic guide to a higher income. Increase profit by 120 Euro/ hectare with tractor autosteer

Dear friends, we would like to introduce you to a series of articles that aim to show farmers how beneficial it is to start using tractor GPS systems in their digital farming work.

To measure the benefits of using an auto steering system we have decided to ask our community to share how they calculate material and other advantages of using GPS systems.

In this article we have invited Willem Nammensma to share his experience. And Willem has a lot of experience!

Willem grew up in the Netherlands on a typical Dutch farm, growing potatoes, onions, sugar beets and cereals. He has many experiences with farming in different countries, like Switzerland, Germany, Georgia and Ukraine, and crops as sugar beets, wheat, rapeseed, potatoes and others.

He is also teaching (the future) farmers how to implement modern precision agriculture solutions, without them losing their focus on the basics of crop growing.

Willem agreed to share with us some tips and guidance on how to calculate the benefits of using a GPS system for farmers.

The payback of the autosteer system depends a lot on many parameters and basically are very specific to each particular farm.

Most important are:

  1. The size of the farm;
  2. Type of farm (organic / conventional);
  3. The crops that you grow;
  4. Which operations are executed by the farmer himself (as some important field-operations might be executed by the contract worker);
  5. Employees, seasonal workers, friends, family, or one-man-company;
  6. Size, shape and location of fields (owned or seasonal rental);
  7. Day and night operations;
  8. The implement behind the tractor

Please tell us how farmers need to calculate payback from using the autosteer system?

Willem: “Basically each farmer needs to analyze and calculate the following steps:

  1. Accuracy (actual overlap, actual application rate/ha, etc. without GPS);
  2. Effectivity (actual days worked at optimal conditions, and actual non-optimal days);
  3. Efficiency (actual working hours equipment + down time)

Every farmer knows where he makes mistakes. The GPS-system makes sure you are more focused on the important tasks like seeding, planting, spraying or fertilizing instead of trying to drive straight. With this change of focus, step 1, 2 and 3 will automatically increase.

Even with small increases, it is possible to save and earn money at the same time. As the system will automatically steer your tractor the savings and earnings will also go automatically.”

Can you show this in the real example?

Willem: “Yes, let’s take a farmer that is growing winter wheat for example. If he can increase his accuracy and efficiency by means of time savings, seed, fertilizer and crop protection savings, as well as better timing, he doesn’t only reduce costs, but also increases his yield. Think about following steps:

  1. Soil preparation (less overlap, more efficiency);
  2. Seeding (less overlap, less seeds/ha, more efficiency, less fuel consumption etc.);
  3. Spraying (less overlap, less residue, more accurate application);
  4. Harvesting (due to a more equal crop, the harvest moment is optimized).”

How much materials do you think farmers can save using the auto steer system?

Willem: “Let’s take a 3 meter seeder for winter wheat. It is difficult to drive the whole day without GPS on an accuracy less than 15cm in average, especially on hilly fields, or during evening/night time.

The RTK-GPS will increase the accuracy from 15 cm to 2 cm, meaning a huge increase of accuracy. 15 cm on 3 meters working width is 5%, 2 cm on 3 meters working width is only 0,67%!! Meaning an increase of accuracy of 4,3%.

Same for example with the harvester. The wider the header, it is more difficult to use its full width. Using tractor autosteer you will see increases of much more than 5%.”

Except for materials saved, are there any other benefits from using a GPS system, and how one can measure them?

Willem: “As mentioned previously, the GPS-system does all the straight driving. Especially during long days this means the operator is less tired and more focused on the real important work. Night time and foggy conditions aren’t limitations anymore.

Another nice feature is the ability to do the registration of field work during the field work. Legislation requires every operation being documented. This can be done after work in the office with handwritten notes, or during the work with help of the GPS-system and platform.

Having multiple employees and different fields, the GPS/system could prevent error and warn for certain obstacles, like wet spots, gas pipes, drainage and others.”

So what is the pay back of the autosteer system for farmers that is growing winter wheat?

Willem: “Taking a very standard example of improving all steps by 5%, accuracy and efficiency, it could mean an increase of gross margin by €120,00 per hectare. Also the saving on labor and worktime with 0,4 hour per hectare substantial. Depending on your area, you can calculate your payback time.

Every farmer however needs to analyze the benefits of such a system for himself, or with your help. One purchases it because of the potential savings and earnings, another purchases it because of the great improvement of work conditions.

Not all aspects are accountable directly, but most farmers know how to judge, count and calculate the benefits for their company.
No need to say, but the higher the value of the crops, the quicker the payback!”

Your recommendation to farmers that don’t use auto steer yet in their work?

Willem: “Start using it now, it will guide you through the fields of joy!”

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