What is the RTK network, and how is it beneficial for farmers?

In this article, we will go over the ways in which RTK can be helpful to farmers. For that, let’s break down RTK and what it means.

RTK stands for Real-Time Kinematic, and essentially it is a technique used to improve the accuracy of a standalone GNSS receiver. Traditional GNSS receivers, for example, the ones in your phones, can only determine your position with a 2-4 metre accuracy. However, GNSS RTK receivers can provide centimetre level accuracy. So RTK is what makes precision farming possible.

Here is how they work

With RTK technology, the precise location of the receiver is determined by a combination of the satellite positioning received by the GPS receiver itself and a correction to that position, received from a nearby “base station”. The correction is calculated by the base station several times a second, by comparing its changing theoretical position, as received in real-time by the same satellites the receiver gets its position from, to its actual position, which is constant.

A Gateway to many tech-enabled efficiencies:
RTK guidance and accurate tractor guidance is the foundation and prerequisite to a variety of advanced precision ag technologies the farmer can then benefit from, such as VRT (Variable Rate Technology) and the implementation of GIS heat-maps generated by soil sensors as well as by drone or satellite imagery.

Economic Advantages:

Because the accuracy of your tractor is improved, this means that you have to do fewer passes around your field, resulting in reduced field costs and improved efficiency of work.Increased yields

Manual or lightbar steering doesn’t hold the same accuracy as auto steering, due to evident human error, this means that patches are at times skipped, resulting in reduced yield. This often happens when acquiring the line and is aggravated in conditions of complex field geometry, obstacles and uneven terrain.

    • When it comes to manual and lightbar steering, there is a 6-9% overlap area between the passes. Using RTK reduces that to 0.5%. .

Decreased Input costs

Eliminating overlap decreases the number of materials used. A survey conducted in North Dakota concluded that 6% of time was saved, and 6.32% of fuel was saved. Resulting in almost 1,870 l (500 gal) of fuel being saved using auto steering systems, and this is equivalent to savings of approximately US$1,500 per farm. With some input costs increasing dramatically over the past months and years, this saving becomes increasingly significant.

    • Based on FieldBee’s research, reducing the number of passes, optimal pass planning with efficient headland turns and faster line acquisition reduces overall operation time as well as diesel consumption by 10-15%, depending on field size.

      Repeatability:

      The RTK system will store your paths, this enables farmers to conduct subsequent operations on the field more easily, while minimising soil compaction and avoiding damaging of planted rows, even when performing high-accuracy operations such as in-row weeding and cultivation. Your coordinates of the motion path are saved so that you are able to maintain your exact position and continue the next day.

      Efficiency:

      Deciding to use an automatic control system on the tractor, reduces farmer fatigue, which means that you are able to do more in a shorter period of time and subsequently being able to direct your attention to implement rather than to the steering, improving operation efficiency and reduces damage to implement

      With technologies improving by the day, agriculture is able to take advantage of this and adapt to become more efficient.

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