Eye in the sky

Oct. 1, 2007
GPS satellite signals control seed placement in high-tech farms. Modern farmers buy seed by the truck full, but in their pursuit to improve yield, the

GPS satellite signals control seed placement in high-tech farms.

Modern farmers buy seed by the truck full, but in their pursuit to improve yield, the cost and placement of every seed is a matter of importance. Of particular concern is the wasteful practice of over-planting. Too often, an overabundance of seed will end up on end-rows, point-rows, terraces, and waterways. This not only wastes money, stemming from the cost of the seed, but also reduces yield by forcing plants to compete for water, sun, and nutrients in the soil. The plants in these problem areas are typically overcrowded, underdeveloped, and more difficult to harvest.

Losses associated with double planting escalate with farm size and are of such magnitude — when multiplied by hundreds or thousands of acres — that the agricultural industry is pulling out all stops to find a solution. One such solution developed jointly by a farming equipment dealer and Bimba Manufacturing Co., Monee, Ill., employs a global positioning system (GPS) to monitor and record tractor movement as well as the dispensing of seeds. In any field of any size, the system precisely controls seeding by turning planter sections off and on according to GPS readings.

How it works

The automated planter consists of several sections, each of which connects to a clutch controlled by a Bimba Original Line cylinder. The cylinders, in turn, are controlled by GPS signals. As tractors move about maneuvering planter sections through the soil, the watchful eye in the sky tells the air cylinders when to open and close. If a section passes through an area already seeded, the GPS system instructs the appropriate cylinder to disengage the associated clutch, effectively stopping the flow of seeds. Because each planter section is controlled by its own clutch, the driveshaft is free to continue turning as clutches engage and disengage, allowing for continuous planting.

For the benefit of the operator, the GPS system maps out the entire process on a computer screen inside the cab. In real time, the system shows where seeds have been planted as well as the status of each planter section. If planting is interrupted for any reason, such as inclement weather or nightfall, the system will record exactly where the planter left off. If any spots are missed, the GPS tracker will pinpoint the location, allowing the farmer to go back and apply seed where necessary.

According to users, the system pays for itself in as little as one growing season.

Going the extra mile

Custom solutions like the one involved in the GPS planting system aren't the only cases in which Bimba engineers go above and beyond to ensure that application needs are met with the most durable and efficient product. All Bimba products, in fact, undergo rigorous Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and thorough empirical testing. Virtual FEA allows entire designs to be modeled, refined, tested, and optimized before anything is manufactured, substantially decreasing the time required to take a cylinder from concept to construction. In addition, every Bimba facility includes a dedicated section where production cylinders are tested, often to their limit, to guarantee long, dependable service.

This year Bimba celebrates five decades of proven experience in an ever-expanding variety of industries with a growing breadth of application know-how. Nearly half of its business consists of custom and semi-custom products, designed for unique applications. Custom or otherwise, Bimba engineers can be counted on to work with designers and drill down to find the causes of underlying problems, not just those on the surface. They are trained to exceed expectations and find solutions that optimize the value to cost ratio. To see some of the things they can do for you, fire up your web browser and visit www.bimba.com/solutionsshop now.

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