As tractors are equipped with an ever greater amount of digital tech the general consensus of opinion emerging is that farmers and operators pick and choose the items that are of use to them, rather than fully immerse themselves in all the wonders available.

This is no more than a reflection of society in general; life is just too short to acquaint ourselves with all the apps on our devices, yet the manufacturers insist on loading a complete suite of goodies on each machine irrespective of whether they will be used or not.

Technology overload

There is of course a motive for all this, when talking to company shareholders, all the big corporations boast that digital is where the real money is made, so marketing departments go into overdrive in selling the software as being absolutely essential to the modern farmer.

Unfortunately, this may well discourage end users who are wanting to use the digital capabilities of their machinery but are overwhelmed by what is presented to them.

It becomes just another farm task to pick a way through the digital maze, and so will either be embraced by the enthusiast or simply ignored by those who feel they have more urgent jobs to get on with, this latter group probably being the larger.

This is an unfortunate situation for digital technology can bring a great deal of efficiency and insight to a farming operation; overselling it as a panacea for all a farm’s ills has not done it, or farming, any great favours.

Coming down to earth

Thankfully, the industry is waking up to the fact that not all farmers are latent software engineers panting to get at the latest coding.

Some companies within it are now making attempts to explain what can be done with the software while the manufacturers are simplifying its use.

Agco digital tech
AGCO is making its diagnostic software more user friendly through the use of graphics

Falling into the latter category is AGCO which is bringing graphics to its diagnostic software to illustrate where a fault may lie, rather than just presenting a list of potential issues in tabular form.

John Deere, meanwhile, has encouraged its dealer network to walk customers through the various software options, a move that has manifested itself in Ireland as Templetuohy Farm Machinery’s (TFM) Agri-Care service which sets out to support Deere’s digital products in the field.

Apps on the mobile

Away from the tractor itself, companies are also publishing apps for devices which communicate with the machine or may be used in conjunction with it.

Pottinger’s Harvest Assist, for instance, allows silage teams to communicate with one another and so manage the operation more efficiently by presenting an overview to all the drivers concerned.

Harvest assist from Pottinger
Pottinger’s Harvest Assist app allows closer monitoring and management of silage harvesting

The app does not receive input directly from the machinery, although this may be a logical step forward for forage wagons which could indicate the best time to return to the pit.

On the other hand, John Deere has recently revamped its Bale Mobile app which is designed specifically to communicate with its large square models and record such parameters as moisture content, yield (both wet and dry matter), bale location etc.

Digital tech for here and now

Both of these apps provide real-time information to the users who can use it immediately to improve management of an operation or enterprise, unlike more rarefied notions such as prescription mapping which often involve expensive third parties such crop consultants.

Bringing this sort of software to the table, in addition to the now accepted satellite navigation and autosteer systems, will likely be the way by which digital technology feeds into agriculture rather than landing a mass of techie gizmos into a cab and expecting the operator to instantly deploy each and every feature.