RTK Farming has taken its service nationwide due to popular demand, as well as launching a new hand-held device that farmers can take on the tractor or walk the fields with. We caught up with RTKF consultant PJ Walker to find out more, and spoke to Syngenta’s Henry Papworth, who has been using the hand-held device for three months.
When four Cambridgeshire farmers wanted to cover their own farms with RTK, they decided to join forces as a co-operative to install the equipment – but it quickly became obvious that many other farmers wanted to use the service as well, so they began leasing the signal to other farms. Within a few years, RTK Farming was covering the whole of East Anglia.
In 2015, they began working in Lincolnshire, then, as farmers and tractor dealers began requesting their services further afield, they spread out to other counties, including Kent and Sussex. At the beginning of last year, they decided to make the service nationwide – a project that has now reached completion.
RTKF consultant PJ Walker says that, unlike other providers, the company is dedicated to RTK, which is a hyper-accurate GPS signal for auto-steering tractors. “It is accurate to 2.5cm and is referred to as repeatable year on year, so the tractor will always go to the same point in the field because it’s on RTK,” PJ explains. “With other types of GPS system, you can’t do that, so that’s the core reason why people use it.”
He adds: “Because we’re dedicated to RTK, we have a team that is on call all of the time for customers who have any issues. They’re very experienced in all types of GPS equipment, so they can answer questions and get people up and running very quickly. That is part of the customer’s subscription, because what we want to do is keep people going all of the time as and when they need to be.”
Expanding the service
As part of RTKF’s expansion across the country, it has also upgraded its existing equipment and technology, PJ says.
“We can provide what’s known as a 4-constellation solution,” he explains. “So instead of just using GPS we use the Russian version of GPS, Glonass, which we were using anyway, but we now also have Galileo, which is the European version, and BeiDou, which is the Chinese version. We have many more satellites to work with, so people who are buying the latest GPS for their tractors will very much benefit from us having upgraded the technology.”
RTKF also now has remote access to all users so they can support customers more efficiently, by looking at exactly what is happening in the field as it happens, PJ adds. Eighty per cent of calls to the company are resolved without anyone needing to go on-site.
A new field companion
A new hand-held device, known as the RTK tablet, was recently launched by the company, shrinking the technology RTKF offers down to tablet size. It allows farmers to have GPS on the tablet that is accurate to 4cm. “What that means is you can have it in your vehicle or just walk around with it in your hand, mapping field boundaries, areas of interest or conservation areas,” PJ explains. “It might be an area of a field that you know gets very wet or drainage spots for example, and all of that data can then be collected.”
Commenting on the tablet’s applications, PJ adds: “We do a lot of work with a company in East Anglia that uses it for absolutely everything – they’re even mapping where their utility meters are, because they have so many and the device allows them to find them quickly and easily when their bills come in, so they can check the readings.
He adds: “It’s a very useful tool for people to have. Whereas before, if you wanted to complete these tasks you would have had to drive a tractor around the area – now you can just have the device in the truck all the time. If, for example, you need to map an area of onions because it looks like it’s yielding really well or really badly, you can figure out that area and put it in.
“It’s about being able to have a much better understanding and control of your data and much more accurately.”
Out in the field
We spoke to Henry Papworth from Syngenta, who has been using the new hand-held device for the past three months.
Discussing the benefits, he says: “While there has been standing crops, we have been able to walk round field boundaries or features with the RTK tablet without damaging any crops on foot. This has allowed us to begin field planning for trials accurately.”
For more information visit: http://www.rtkfarming.co.uk