The introduction of precision technologies for production agriculture began in the early 1980s and now, more than 30 years later, the technology is making its mark in the rural lifestyle segment, specifically in sprayers for golf course and turf maintenance.
Several companies have recently announced technology partnerships and new precision products, leveraging what’s already been proven in the crop world. In fact, rural lifestyle precision products are benefitting from the ag testing ground and moving straight to “sub-inch” accuracy for chemical placement and comprehensive data gathering and analysis capabilities.
Toro recently announced its partnership with Topcon, a company that was established in 1932 and began offering positioning systems for construction equipment in the mid-1990s and later for ag and water management equipment. The companies plan to introduce a new GPS-equipped sprayer, the GeoLink system, this summer. GeoLink will be available for the Toro Multi Pro 5800 sprayer initially.
John Deere showed off its sprayer prototype at the Golf Industry Show. The “intelligent” sprayer will be mounted on ProGator turf vehicles. The company is continuing testing this year.
Last fall, Raven Industries, founded in 1979, and Turflux, founded last year, announced an agreement to exclusively market in North America Turflux’s Cruiser products using Raven’s Slingshot RTK technology.
Some systems today use RTK (real time kinematic) technology, which uses satellite communication and reference station correction for determining precise location. RTK is a step forward from WAAS (wide area augmentation system) technology that is still in use today with some precision systems.
Beyond the “cool factor,” here’s why you should pay attention to precision technology. First, the market is large. Turflux says there are more than 15,000 golf courses in North America. Municipalities, universities and schools, and public and private sports complexes have similar needs for attractive green spaces and reduced chemical costs and are challenged to prove environmental responsibility. Accuracy through GPS mapping, section “on and off” control and management reports help superintendents meet those goals. Toro and John Deere’s systems will even offer individual nozzle control. The future could include such capabilities as machine-to-machine communication.
Second, some of you are already selling and supporting precision products for farmers. If you’re not yet offering precision products, this is a way to enter the market. You’ll have to get up to speed on the technology and add the diagnostic equipment. However, you don’t have to worry about stocking a load of spare parts or finding space to display another tractor or mower model.
Finally, the return on investment can drive sales. Product experts say that many golf courses, for instance, could recover that investment in 2 years — while immediately improving management practices.
The technology is logical for the golf market because the increased efficiencies in chemical application justify the expense. Transitioning to other rural lifestyle applications, such as mowing, may take a while. However, rural lifestylers are already using GPS technology in their vehicles, so why not seek the same for other equipment?
At least check out the opportunity. You’ll need time to educate your team, so they can educate customers. It could be another way to demonstrate innovation and leadership.
Introducing New Ideas
We’re pleased to welcome Mike Wiles, who is writing our new column, “Managing the Store,” on page 90. Wiles offers strategies learned from more than 20 years of dealership experience. And, please check out the new tools available on our redesigned website, www.rurallifestyledealer.com.