UAVs fly high at InfoAg demonstration

AutoCopter Corporation UAV coming in for landing, Holmes field, Pawnee, IllinoisUnmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are part of the future of agriculture and the future is here.

It was in a central Illinois cornfield and along a private airstrip where representatives from three companies demonstrated their UAVs (“drones”) to farmers, precision ag folks and others on Monday.

Three companies demonstrated three very different looking machines. One looked like a mini helicopter and weighed 28 pounds. Another looked like a large bird in flight and, while made of foam, weighed only one pound.

The machines can be controlled remotely by growers and the aircraft does the high-tech scouting for them. Images and date are processed, in some cases, right after the vehicle lands. The UAVs can be programmed ahead of time or controlled as you go.

Drew Janes gives UAV explanation before flightThe UAV demonstration was part of a day of preview demonstrations leading up to the 2013 InfoAg Conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield, Illinois. The show runs Tuesday through Thursday.

IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference June 26 – 27

The 2nd Annual IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference will be held June 26-27, 2013 at the Prairie Meadows Conference Center in Altoona, Iowa. In addition to cutting edge educational sessions, farmers and agribusiness leaders will have the opportunity to see the latest technology and to network with top technology and equipment suppliers.

Ray Bianci, VP and Show Director of IDEAg group which produces 5 agricultural events annually, tells Brownfield that attendees will find the information presented at this conference useful in the near term.

“In 2 days in a contact and information rich setting, attendees will learn about what is going to happen with the internet and with interconnected technologies for agriculture in the short and medium term.”

The theme, “The power of knowledge. Shared.” reflects the goal of the educational forum to provide information and allow discussion on the complexities of this interconnected age of agriculture. Topics will vary from precision agriculture and prescriptive farming to using weather drones and aeronautical data to manage your farm, to land values and current and emerging efforts to integrate seed, soil, applications, yield data, and economics.

Bianci explains that your level on the technology adoption curve does not matter. There is something here for all grain and livestock farmers to take home and put into action.

“This is not a pie in the sky conference,” Bianci said. “The goal here is for you as a farmer, in the next year or two to be able to install these systems and go forward with them.”

Conversation with Ray Bianci 06062013

John Deere’s FarmSight™ featured at AG Connect

Jarred Karnei, John Deere product marketing manager, AG CONNECT '13

Jarred Karnei, John Deere product marketing manager, AG CONNECT ’13

Attendees got to see lots of products and solutions on display from John Deere at Ag Connect 2013 in Kansas City.

Jarred Karnei, John Deere product marketing manager tells Brownfield Ag News, talked about John Deere’s FarmSight™, explaining that, “We see ourselves as a solutions provider. We don’t just want be able to provide a product to the customer. We want to be able to provide a total solution to the customer.”

AUDIO: Jarred Karnei (5:00 mp3)

Technology can be for everyone

Technology is changing the way farmers farm.  New smartphone and tablet applications give farmers a bird’s eye view of their operation.

As these new technologies come on-line farmers have more opportunities to be more efficient.  Daryl Star with Lafayette, Ind. based Advanced Ag Solutions says that technology could be as simple as changing fungicide applications to a different day, with a slightly different rate than what was originally anticipated or it could even mean turning irrigation systems on and off when needed or even making seeding and nitrogen rate changes on the fly. Ultimately, though, he says it is about dynamically responding to the farmer’s environment.

Star’s company has just released their Optimizer 2.0 app.  Star tells Brownfield their app provides farmers with information that is related to their management practices.  

Star says technologies can benefit any size farmer.  “For example,” he says.  “Our target is anyone that grows corn in the lower 48 states.” 

He notes it could be a farmer that has a small piece of ground that is just trying to manage it well or it could be the farmer with tens of thousands of acres that he is trying to keep track of all the farms.  Star adds, “there is something for everyone.”

Grassley criticizes FCC, White House over LightSquared

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley has accused the White House and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of catering to the lobbyists of the now-bankrupt wireless company LightSquared and of stonewalling his investigation into the case.

In a recent speech on the Senate floor, Grassley noted that LightSquared hired dozens of lobbyists, including a former governor and nine former members of Congress, to push for approval of its planned high-speed wireless network.  But Grassley says while those lobbyists provided entry into the FCC and the White House, they couldn’t change the fact that LightSquared’s network couldn’t co-exist with GPS.

The FCC granted LightSquared a conditional waiver last year to develop the network, but later pulled the waiver and blocked the network after tests showed it would interfere with GPS devices. Many agricultural groups opposed the LightSquared plan, fearing it would interfere with farming GPS devices. 

Grassley says he still wants to know why the FCC granted LightSquared the conditional waiver in the first place.

“It seems strange that a project that was so obviously flawed was allowed to go so far, but LightSquared had help,” Grassley said, pointing to the influential lobbyists.

The FCC has denied giving LightSquared any special treatment.

LightSquared files for Chapter 11

LightSquared has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

LightSquared is the company that wanted to build a high-speed wireless broadband network across the U.S.  But the plan met with stiff opposition from agriculture and other industries over concerns that the service would interfere with GPS systems.

The bankruptcy filing was not a big surprise.  Bondholders had given LightSquared a Monday deadline to come to an agreement about restructuring the company’s debt.

FCC derails LightSquared’s plan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to block the planned development of a nationwide wireless network by communications company LightSquared over concerns that it cannot be fixed to coexist with global positioning systems (GPS).

The FCC move is subject to public comment and agency commissioners could overturn the decision.  But observers say that, given the line-up of federal agencies expressing concern over the land-based tower network, chances aren’t good for LightSquared.

In a statement, LightSquared expressed disappointment with the decision which it contends is based on “a severely flawed testing process that relied on obsolete and niche devices.” 

The company goes on to state it is committed to finding a resolution with the federal government and the GPS industry and fully expects to build its 14 billion dollar network.

Among those applauding the decision is the American Soybean Association (ASA). ASA president Steve Wellman says it’s a great relief for farmers across the country who use GPS technology to produce more food with fewer inputs.

At the same time, Wellman says LightSquared’s efforts do underscore the pressing need for better broadband service, especially in rural America.

LightSquared says failed test was ‘rigged’

A key federal committee charged with testing the LightSquared network has determined there would be significant interference with GPS from the mobile broadband carrier.

The National Space-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee—which is made up of nine federal agencies—unanimously agreed that none of LightSquared’s proposals to combat GPS interference would work.

However, LightSquared is claiming that those tests were rigged to fail.

The company argues that the devices from GPS manufacturers that were used in the testing were “cherry picked” in secret and that independent authorities were not allowed to partake or oversee the test or test results.

LightSquared says the test was rigged by the manufacturers of GPS receivers and government end users to produce “bogus results.”  It says the tests focused on obsolete technology that is only used in “niche market devices”—receivers least able to withstand potential interference from wireless networks.

According to a story on the web site, LightSquared is calling for further testing from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). If it doesn’t succeed in those efforts, the article says, the project appears to be doomed.

Staying on top of the LightSquared-GPS controversy

The use of GPS has really revolutionized farming.  It has greatly increased efficiency and productivity. 

That’s why many farmers are watching very closely the ongoing skirmish between GPS manufacturers and users and the wireless broadband company LightSquared. 

Tom Oswald of Cleghorn, Iowa is one of them.

AUDIO: Tom Oswald (3:00 MP3)


Iowa farmer crusades on LightSquared-GPS issue

The battle between GPS manufacturers and users, and wireless broadband company LightSquared, continues. 

In the meantime, Cleghorn, Iowa farmer Tom Oswald is doing what he can to inform his fellow farmers about the implications of LightSquared’s plan and the impact it could have on auto-guidance and precision farming.

Oswald, who is a director at large and treasurer of the Iowa Soybean Association, discussed those concerns in an interview with Brownfield’s Ken Anderson.

AUDIO: Tom Oswald (8:12 MP3)