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It's an excellent system that will help make data management even easier, as development advances.

Chris Ireland, farmer, Sleaford - Fendt Rogator 600

It's an excellent system that will help make data management even easier, as development advances.

Foggy Lincolnshire

Everyone has heard about the notorious English fog that likes to settle over the country. But today the skies are clear. It is high time for farmer Chris Ireland to send his self‑driving machines onto the field.

The SUV is slowly travelling towards the wheat run-out in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Josh Ireland of AgSense walks to the loading area and opens a large black plastic case. A drone appears. A status symbol for the innovative start-up company. This is because the first nitrogen application for the winter wheat is due in spring. How did the crop survive the winter? Just a few steps into the crop, he rips out a stalk and assesses the plant with a trained eye. Then it's back to the car. He spreads out the landing mat for the drone. A control panel strapped around his neck, he starts up the four rotors, getting faster and faster. The drone rises up and tracks up and down the field. The hightech camera captures the different supply levels of the grain from above. Impressive images are delivered by the camera and processed as needed. The client receives the data before the drone has even touched down. Chris Ireland sits at his PC and watches the information come in. With the help of the management software Gatekeeper, he creates an application map to plot the application of the nitrogen fertiliser AHL. In the background, algorithms calculate the optimum fertilisation requirements; less fertiliser for bumper crop areas, a little more nitrogen for currently low-yielding land. The aim is to have a uniform crop until harvest, which can then mature evenly.

Chris Ireland joined the family business in Sleaford (about 200 km north of London) six years ago. His terrain: 3,200 ha of arable land, 1,200 ha of owned land, the other fields are leased or under a management contract. He implements his arable farming concept across every acre. The five-tier crop rotation – winter wheat, rapeseed (oil), winter wheat, summer/winter barley, beans/ sugar beet – is grown using the mulch seed and strip-till process. But the 29-year-old operations manager admits he cannot do without the plough completely. The young farmer has a passion: agricultural technology. Not just a topic for his thesis. It quickly became clear to Chris that he had to invest in technology if he wanted to develop the business further. The imposed requirements on documenting plant protection and fertilisation measures, the rising costs of fertilisers and plant protection products, as well as the lack of documentation options with existing technology were just some of the reasons that led to the purchase in 2016 of two self-propelled pesticide sprayers from the Rogator 600 series.

Why a self-driving machine?

It's simple – depending on the crop, the land is treated with the plant protection sprayer up to ten times a year. 1,000 operating hours per year – that's the average output of the solution since it was purchased in 2016. The debate on chemical plant protection and the demand for a paradigm shift in plant protection has left its mark throughout Europe. Innovative and precise plant protection technology is in demand, along with more working width and larger tank volume. The overwhelming argument for Chris to invest in self-propelling technology: He needs technology that allows him to make best use of the spraying dates and time windows for application. Because one thing is clear to the Englishman, the next unwanted fog will certainly pick up faster than most farmers would like. And there's a logistical challenge to be met, as some fields lie as far away as 50 kilometres from the farm. The shopping list for equipment is easy: 36 metres' working width, SectionControl, 2 terminals for a better overview, boom guide (BoomControl), VarioDoc Pro, RTK track guidance system, VariableRateControl (VRC) and ISOBUS.

With the VarioGuide Contour Assistant, the fields can be processed simply and effectively.
It is extremely easy to fill the Rogator with liquid pesticides. The 60 l capacity induction hopper has an output of up to 200 l/min.

With the Rogator, Chris has the perfect tool for the upcoming fertilisation work. In his office, he checks the new application maps. It all happens in a flash; The data is shared as ISO-XML data between field database and Task Controller Basic (TC-BAS) via Fendt VarioDoc Pro. Jobs are easily imported into the Task Controller, for the completed documentation to then be exported again. This is where the Brit relies on the FUSE solution from the AGCO Group. This cloud-based precision farming tool is available worldwide on the mobile network. You can access the data anytime, anywhere.

At the click of a mouse, Chris sends the file to the driver on the Rogator. In the driver's cab, the data is then loaded into the operating system. Now the work instruction is in place. Sounds complicated and looks extremely complex? Not at all, agree all four drivers. Just a quick click on the green tick in the touchscreen terminal, and the job is processed. With its RTK track guidance system, the Rogator navigates the field with precision, avoiding overlaps and spreading the calculated amount of fertiliser. The plants receive exactly the amount of fertiliser they need for best growth.

At around 16 km/h, the Rogator pulls up and down the tracks in the wheat runout. Divergent, even land? Error indicator! Now the boom comes into play. The distance to the crop must be maintained, automatically. Horizontal and vertical boom movements, which can be attributed to the terrain or to the acceleration and deceleration of the vehicle, are almost eliminated by the even pneumatic dampers. The parallel linkage and articulation of the lift arm fitted in front of the rear axle keep the centre frame close to the rear axle, and transfer very little chassis movement to the boom. With the OptiSonic boom height control system based on ultrasound sensors, the right, middle and left sides of the boom automatically and separately follow the ground. This ensures operational safety and compliance with increasingly stringent environmental regulations. The liquid fertiliser is applied specifically as required, which ultimately means using less. But what is even more important for the farmer, is that he knows the fertiliser is getting to where it is needed and can do its job. What's more, human errors are almost excluded with the integrated software. Data on the application quantity and time of the applied product, as well as the user (name, approval number of the certificate of expertise for plant protection products, etc.) are recorded and documented. Current climatic conditions (temperature, humidity, wind strength) can also be recorded using an ISOBUS weather station for complete documentation. Once the job is complete, the data goes back to the office wirelessly. Chris now has the data in lack and white in his field database. There might still be the odd snag, but only because he craves even more documentation. “It's an excellent system that will help make data management even easier, as development advances.” This should also make his day-to-day work easier and reduce he spends on his PC documenting the work.