Agricultural machinery

Farmer 4.0: RFID prevents mistakes and incorrect spread rates

Agricultural machinery manufacturer Rauch relies on an RFID-based spreading disc detection system from Balluff.

Agricultural machinery manufacturer Rauch relies on RFID-based spreading disc detection

Digital technology and software solutions have long been essential components of agriculture. When applying seed both the soil conditions and the proper disc play an important role.

To ensure that mix-ups can't occur in daily use, agricultural machinery manufacturer Rauch equips their disc spreaders with Balluff series BIS M RFID systems.

Only if the disc fits the chosen use and material is the farmer permitted to enter the field. Mistakes and incorrect spread rates are thus prevented.

Oliver Pütz-Gerbig
Oliver Pütz-Gerbig
BU Identification Product Manager
Neuhausen a.d.F., Germany

Digitization has arrived in agriculture

Modern farmers control their feed regimens using a smartphone app and have all the information about the cow in a digital chip. Thanks to onboard computers and GPS they know right from the air conditioned cabin of their tractor where which nutrients need to go into the soil and in what dosage.

Digitization has arrived in agriculture: Farmers are professional businessmen who need to pay attention to efficient use of resources and tailored operation sequences. Time is money, and a strict plan needs to be followed.

Into the field with the right disc

Nitrogen is the engine of plant growth. In addition to a fertilizer application rate calculated precisely to the soil quality, correct timing is critical and depends heavily on the need curve of the respective crop. In contrast to phosphorous and potash, nitrogen has to be introduced into the soil at the right time and in the appropriate amount, since nitrate-containing fertilizers work faster than pure ammonia fertilizers. Too much or too little must be avoided out of efficiency and cost considerations.

Contractors especially are often on the move from farm to farm with their tractors. To the extent that they are using their own equipment, they will use whatever equipment is available at the location of their client, such as fertilizer spreaders. The schedule is usually tight, and in the haste of everyday work mistakes happen. With the innovate DISCAN system from Rauch farmers can now be completely certain that they are driving on to the field with the correct spreading discs.

No more using the wrong discs

Rauch is a manufacturer of agricultural equipment and machines with headquarters in Sinzheim, Germany. Among their products are fertilizer spreaders in various versions as well as a variety of associated discs.

Depending on the purpose and product, they are available in various geometries and working widths - for granulated fertilizer, slug pellets or fine seed spreading. Even if the working width is constant, several different spreading discs may be required in order to make optimum use of the entire performance potential of a fertilizer spreader.

To preclude using the wrong spreader in the hectic conditions of even everyday work with different operators, the engineers at Rauch long ago began thinking about an innovative solution.

"We were looking for a non-contact, reliable and all-weather system that could use the onboard spreading program to indicate immediately whether the right disc is installed with the selected product for the intended use," says Maximilian Zimmer, Head of Electronic Development at Rauch.

From industry to agriculture

The ideal solution came from the machine tool industry: The BIS M RFID system from Balluff has been successfully used in the automation field for years already. There it is used for parts tracking at close-range as well as production control (palletizing, recording on the workpiece etc.).

The system is known for its reliability and high transmission speeds even when large quantities of data are used. It can be seamlessly and easily integrated into existing applications and meets ISO 15693 and ISO 14443A. The BIS M RFID system from Balluff has proven its capability in various sectors of industry even under the harshest conditions. With a variety of accessories even non-standard, custom solutions can be achieved.

"For us one of the decisive factors was that the system has been proven to work even in dirty environments. For us it absolutely needs to be water-and dust-tight as well as simple to install," emphasizes Maximilian Zimmer.

Fully automatic adjustment

Rauch is the world's first and only manufacturer who equips disc spreaders with Balluff RFID technology. A high-frequency data carrier is fastened beneath the disc and the reader on the transmission of the fertilizer spreader. The data carrier contains the disc type, its size, and the manufacturing date. When the driver enters the planned application in the display, the tag passes by the reader during the first disc revolution at a distance of 80 mm. Within 20 milliseconds the read head has read the data and passed it on to the operating terminal.

The DISCAN system from Rauch fully automatically matches the disc to the spreader-spread material table which is stored in the CCI-100-ISOBUS universal terminal. The system then releases the equipment for operation only if the right disc is installed for the application and spreading material. If the spreading material or working width does not conform to the application window, a warning is displayed on the operating terminal. DISCAN also intervenes if the left and right spreading disc were swapped.

No more spreading mistakes or incorrect metering

The benefits are crystal clear: The DISCAN system prevents that an operator - including a contractor - recognizes too late or not at all that he is generously spreading expensive fertilizer using the wrong disc. Costly spreading errors or incorrect metering are avoided from the start if the spreading disc-dependent EMC automatic metering system is used.

Rauch first introduced the project idea at Agritechnica 2017, where the system found great resonance.

The DISCAN system is now a standard product. What had already become an indispensable part of industrial automation technology in the area of modern tool management has now been implemented in agriculture. In the next step the tag can also contain not only just product data, but also operating hours, which fields have been covered, type of spreading material, service intervals and much more. With appropriate evaluation and use of the data the efficiency and reliability of agricultural processes can be vastly improved.

Analogous to Industry 4.0, Agriculture 4.0 is no longer a dream.

"Our products and our operational context are characterized by technology and changing demands. As for the future, we can easily imagine more innovations related to fertilizing spreading, such as active environment monitoring," summarizes Maximilian Zimmer.


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