Row end turns automation especially valuable in high value crops

Trimble markets NextSwath system as employee training solution

Trimble’s NextSwath system creates more parallel, uniform rows and headlands and can be easily operated by new employees.

Agricultural tech company Trimble is hoping to make human resource management easier for growers who recruit and train new employees for the same tasks every year. 

It is targeting those who produce permanent or higher-value crops such as grapes or orchard fruits. 

The company’s NextSwath system is designed to keep equipment running at peak efficiency despite the possibility of newly trained employee operators. 

But according to company representatives, veteran farmers already running Trimble systems have also been using the technology to keep rows and headlands more uniform. 

“Historically, in precision ag we’ve been steering tractors straight. Logistically the operator is lifting and turning the equipment to the next A-B line, but there’s a point in time where there’s an alignment issue,” says Jake Ridenour, regional sales manager for Trimble. 

The idea is to reduce time lost to backing up and slowing down, and at least in annual crops, create more parallel, uniform rows and headlands. 

The technology automatically calculates and executes the best possible turning and subsequent approach path. It’s an equipment-agnostic system but an existing, later-edition Trimble monitor is needed in the cab. NextSwath’s approximate cost is US$1,680. 

The system can also be augmented with NextSwath Connect, a secondary sprayer function allowing the boom on the outside of the turn to automatically fold and redeploy around obstacles. This additional tool is priced at US$600. 

“First you need to set up an accurate boundary. That way you have a good grasp on where the boom cannot go, and where the limit is,” says Ridenour. “The system will recognize where exactly the end of the row is.”

The company’s experience so far indicates the efficiency savings of these systems are particularly noticeable in higher value and permanent crops where employees, who are often migrant labourers or high school students doing summer work, change each year.

“You likely won’t see them the next season. It’s hard to train them…We have heard everything from a few per cent, as far as man-hours, to 10 to 15 per cent savings in a day,” says Ridenour, adding the savings on a given farm vary based on field size and shape and on crop values. 

For Thornbury-area apple grower and processor Botden Orchard Ltd., additional Trimble communications yielded a five per cent application savings through NextSwath systems. The ability to more effectively and efficiently train employees, as well as freeing those employees to focus on other tasks such as spray pattern efficiency, were also listed as benefits. 

Higher-value crops aside, Ridenour says he has been surprised at the interest shown by farmers who are themselves tired of jockeying equipment at the end of each row. 

About the author

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Matt McIntosh

Matt is a freelance writer based between Essex County and Chatham-Kent. He is interested in all things scientific, as well as rock n' roll, hunting and history. He also works with his parents on their sixth-generation family farm.

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