FieldBee tractor auto steer installation on a Dutch-Ukrainian farm

The eFarmer team is over a very eventful week. We installed an autosteer on a 30 year old tractor, tested the new version of our FieldBee tractor navigation system and even find time for some teambuilding – all these on a farm in the northwestern part of Ukraine.

What is the best part of creating new solutions for farmers?

The chance to visit farms and meet our customers all around the world.

As our team is growing, we find it important that the new members have the opportunity to get to know their colleagues as well as our customers better. Visiting a farm in Ukraine was the perfect occasion for both.

Last week we spent a few days on the farm of one of our Dutch customers who started his own farm in Ukraine. During these days we:

  • learned about the current challenges that the farmers need to face

  • exchanged ideas and experiences among the team

  • completed our first autosteer installation in Ukraine … on a 30 years old John Deere 6800 tractor

About our host

Without any agricultural background, Henry Bierens decided to start farming 11 years ago. As he puts it: If he had known more about the complexity of farming, he probably wouldn’t have dared to start it at all. However, he didn’t give up and in the past decade he acquired extensive knowledge of the agricultural industry and developed a passion for farming. Right now he manages 450 hectares in Lutsk region, mostly growing seed potatos, with the help of his 11 employees.

Henry showed us around his farm and shared his views about the current trends in agriculture:

One thing that Henry recognized long ago is the importance of embracing new technological solutions:

“We farmers take a lot of risk.

The market helps you as well in case you are not working well. The old farmers did not have schooling, but such days are over.

Everyone has understood that to survive you will have to adapt to the technology.”

Henry has a very analytical mindset and he decided to focus more and more on data to save resources and increase yield.

“People say, record keeping will not help in making/saving any money. But I say, it is the first part and you need to combine it and go at the micro level to see exactly where the costs are and why this field produces less than the other, etc.

Some analytics can significantly reduce time and cost. For example: which fertilizer is better, more cost effective etc. If certain things could be done by a software it would make a farmer’s life very easy.

Competition is increasing and we have to watch the cost as at the end of the day I would know whether I have made profit or not.”

Installing tractor autosteer with RTK accuracy

Henry has been using the eFarmer app on his farm since December 2016 and we have offered him to upgrade to automatic steering system this year.

The reason behind his decision?

Hours of cost analysis and calculation.

Like every farmer, Henry is also wasting a huge amount of resources every year because of inefficiencies during field operations: spraying the same areas multiple times, missing spots during spraying and seeding etc. All this make him lose money.

Automatic steering with RTK accuracy can significantly reduce both overlaps and missed spots.

Henry made a rough calculation of the expected pay back of the system. He will be able to plant with a higher accuracy (with closer lines) which will result in a minimum of 2% increase in output. In the case of 100 hectares, this means two more hectares, approximately 80 tons of potato. He calculates the price of a ton as 100 euros so 80 tons will mean plus 8000 euros for Henry (minus the cost of seed potatoes that are used to for the extra planting, approximately 6 tons to plant for 1500 euros).

Henry believes that the most important metrics to consider is the cost of produced product/ton/hectare. He will also be able to cut back costs on spraying by reducing overlaps. He can waste at least 2% less resources which he expects to be 6000 euros for 200 hectares. Another plus side is the reduced fatigue for the driver who does not have to concentrate on the steering anymore.

Here’s how we started the tractor autosteer installation:

1.Installing FieldBee tractor navigation system and RTK Bee station

Growing seed potatoes and using automatic steering require a very high accuracy so first our team needed to install an RTK Bee Station to increase precision. The water tower seemed to be the perfect spot. It’s good that our CTO, Alexey is not afraid of heights:)

RTK installation

Learn more about FieldBee tractor navigation system

2.Choosing the tractor that is suitable for automatic steering

Our team installed the automatic steering on Henry’s John Deere 6800 which is more than 20 years old.

It shows that even older models can be equipped with autosteer, but it is very important to check the following points before the installation:

  • Verify that you can turn the steering wheels from lock to lock.

  • Record the time it takes to turn the vehicle’s steering mechanism from full left to full right and then record the time to go from full right to full left as fast as you can manually.

  • Verify the vehicle steers straight and does not pull to one side when driving in a straight line.

  • Check for loose or worn steering components.

If any part of the vehicle is not in working order, have the system serviced by a qualified technician prior to the autosteer installation.

Tractor Autosteer Installation

3.Testing the automatic steering system

Henry was very happy with his new autosteer. He recorded how he tested his system in the field. In this video, Henry’s pointing out how accurate it is:



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