2019 Outdoor Farm Show: X-Steam-inator

Another interesting piece of technology I checked out at the 2019 COFS was the Saskatchewan built X-Steam-inator.  This device promises to clear away weeds using a PTO driven generator and, from what I recall, about 2 gallons of water per acre.

At this point I was uncertain about ground speeds.  But, the concept is interesting.  Can we use a mechanical device instead of chemicals to get some of the harder to control weeds, either early in the season or mid-season?

Time will tell. The machine is still a prototype at this point with product rollout expected in 2020.  For more information they have a limited website at  http://www.xsteaminator.com

X-Steam-inator Flyer

2019 Outdoor Farm Show – Autonomous Technology

Spent some time catching up with the folks at DOT.  Things have moved rapidly since the Precision Ag Conference in 2018.

At the show we saw several demonstations.  First, with a mockup of a 12 Row, 30″ corn planter.  The planter has no fertilizer attachments or seed boxes at the show, but the toolbar and frame could easily accomodate a central fill seed box, a liquid fertilizer tank, and perhaps a dry box.

We talked about capacity and seeing as the seedmaster attachment can hold up to 300 bu of seed, I would expect that a corn fertilizer capacity would be in the range of 6-8MT or 1000-1400 gallons of liquid.

Travel speeds in the field are typical 5-10 mph.

They also brought a 30′ Seedmaster drill, which the DOT unit handled with no problems.

I was suprised to see the size of New Leader spinner box – I didn’t measure it but it was at least a 13′ box which slipped neatly into the U-Frame.  The entire process to uncouple the corn planter and hook up the spreader took about 5-6 minutes.

The technology is very exciting to watch.  A different concept – power unit and tool that integrate.  It eliminates the challenges faced by trying to tow an implement straight.

They did not bring the 1600 gallon, 120′ sprayer attachment from Pattison, but they did have videos of it working.  I didn’t video this part, but I believe they have sprayed over 10,000 acres last year in autonomous mode which must be some sort of record.

Here are some videos.  Note that in the first video it had rained the night before, quite heavily.  The DOT unit is programmed to stop if it spins out – so it shouldn’t get stuck, unlike when I try to test how wet the fields are:

Getting your Precision Ag Equipment Ready for Spring

Now that spring is nearly here it’s a good idea to go over some technology reminders before we get rolling in the next couple of weeks.

The famous “it worked when I put it away” line gets quoted far too often.

Here are a few tips:


It’s always a good idea to clean up your display before you begin.  An often overlooked item is physically.  Carefully use a damp cloth and clean up any dust and grime from the outer case.  Use compressed air sparingly preferably not at all.  A common place for concern is the screen.  Use a microfibre cloth (same as eyeglasses) to clean the screen.  Sometimes dust can build up on the bottom edges and corners of the touch screen bezels – carefully use a business card to clean out this dust, ensuring that you do not force the card in too deep.

In the screen – it’s a good idea to dump out any data that you don’t need.  Rename fields with proper spelling or delete duplicates.  Before you delete anything, talk to us first about how the data might be used.  After you make this consideration, then delete old coverage maps that you don’t require.  Delete saved A-B lines that are duplicates or made in error, that kind of stuff.  Move A-B lines between displays as needed.  While it might be nice to have 5 years of history on your monitor, it does bog them down and slow up their reaction times.

Firmware updates on Displays.  Generally, it is best practice to upgrade to the latest firmware on your monitors.  They often include important updates and bug fixes.  That said, sometimes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” also applies.  With each firmware update, release notes are included.  Prior to updating, read these release notes as they will tell you what is being changed.  Sometimes you can skip and update or two and get along just fine.  And sometimes, some screens won’t work until the software update is done.  The only rule is:  Do not do software updates on the day you intend to head to the field!

Lastly, keep your cab clean and tidy.  Get rid of the dirt and dust as this enables dampness in the cab which destroys electronics.  When tidying up cables, ensure that you are not kinking coaxial antenna or RTK cables as you will destroy them.  A nice, small loop is the best.  Other cabling can be tied up tighter, just watch that you are not putting 90 degree bends near the plugs which stretches the connectors.

Autosteer Systems

Ensure that your autosteer systems are functioning.  Do some tests in your yard.  Do the foam wheels on your EZ steer need to be replaced?  EZ Pilot’s have rubber grommets on the antirotation pins that can get worn and sloppy.  Check the tightness of your mounting brackets, especially on any wheel angle sensors.  Firmware updates on steering systems often contain great improvements in performance and are recommended to be installed, keeping in mind that the system will have to be completely recalibrated when you do this.  Again, do not do any firmware updates on the day you need to use the system.

Product Controllers

Ensure that your attached implements show up on your display or controller.  Test out the boom valves and control valves to ensure they open and close.  Flowmeters can only be tested with flowing water, but granular encoders can be tested without any product.  Generally I don’t see a huge need to update firmware on product controllers unless a specific issue has been found.

The most important thing is to ensure proper flow control:  Boom – Speed – Flow.  If you checked your flowmeter, ensure that your boom widths are correct, and that the system sees that your boom sections are turning on and off.

Then, double check your speed calibration.  If possible, use GPS speed as this stays the most consistent.  There is nothing wrong with radars and wheel magnets, but they must be double checked for accuracy.


The most common issue with precision equipment is the cabling.  Bad connections and specifically grounding.

Follow the cabling out of the cab and look for pinch or wear points.  Then, check the plugs for corrosion.  Do not overoil or grease connections.  There is special lube for connections if you think you need them.  You do not want contact between the pins from grease oozing over the face of the plug.

Ensure that your aerials and RTK antennas are secure on the roof.

What’s new:

Climate FieldView is now compatible with more GPS receivers, albeit not with some product controllers.  That said, you can at least map out planting maps with some Trimble displays where you could not before.  Ensure your products are up to date and contact us with any questions about cabling needs for Climate.

Raven Displays:

Viper 4 (4+): Raven Branded: Viper 4 Software            

AgCo Branded:  Viper 4 Agco Software

CaseIH Branded: Viper 4 Case IH Software                      

Viper Pro:  As this is now a discontinued product there have been no updates since

Envizio Pro II:  There have been no updates since Envizio Pro Series 3.10 Software                      

Cruizer II:  There have been no updates since Cruizer II 3.5 Software Update                      

CR7: CR7 Software                      

Trimble Displays:

TMx-2050 most current update is 5.61

FMx (FM 1000) most current update is 10.13  (Needed for Climate FieldView to work)

Cfx 750most current update is 7.79

EZ Guide 250 – most current update is 3.12

EZ Guide 500 and EZ Guide Plus:  There are discontinued products, no updates since 5.12 and 4.11, respectively.



Soil Optix High Resolution Soil Testing

We have joined with the team at Soil Optix to provide an additional form of high resolution soil testing to our customer base and local area.

This builds on what we started doing 2 years ago with our EC machine. Our goal is to provide our customer base with the best possible maps to help them understand and manage their farms. While traditional 2.5 acre grid sampling can be very good, in our area the variability of the soil creates challenges for this method.

The advantage of the Soil Optix process is that we can combine the creation of zones with soil sampling at the same time. This speeds up our process time and improves the data accuracy.

The Soil Optix machine measures soil radiation or spectral decay and couples it with traditional soil sampling to create a representation of soil fertility at up to 355 data points per acre.

This data is then analyzed using standard GIS software to create management zones, fertility and seeding recommendations.

Let us know if you would like to have a demonstration.



Farm Show Highlights

We would like to thank everyone who visited our booth at the Chatham Kent Farm Show, as well as at the Precision Ag Conference last week.

Here are some of what I considered as highlights from the Precision Ag Conference, as presented by Farms.Com.

Robotic Farming:
I’ll post some more about these at a later date. There are a couple of interesting ideas coming forward, one called “MARS”, the “Mobile Ag Robotic Swarm” concept, from AGCO – Fendt; and the other was a presentation by a Canadian Company, SeedMaster of Saskatchewan, with their version, called simply “DOT”

The DOT system is having a limited release in 2018 featuring a 30′ seeding unit!

Internet of Things:
This concept involves the placement of “sensors” on equipment so that it can be uploaded to a central site and the data monitored remotely. For example, weather stations, soil conditions, etc. In an equipment setting, a company called Uptake is using the sensors to monitor engines, gearboxes and mechanical parts so that they can been modeled for both optimum performance, but also to help predict failures and help plan scheduled, preventative maintenance.

Profitability Mapping:
A neat way to help manage variability in your fields. In a nutshell, the software helps you to set “goals” for your management zones, in the fields., based on breakeven yield, crop selling prices, and input costs.

Data Integration:
In short, farmers are looking to integrate their farm data as much as they can, from across their equipment platforms. This was regardless of farm size. Lots of support for platforms like Climate FieldView (data collection, post harvest analysis, data synchronization) as well as AgLeader SMS and, for those with JD equipment, JD Operations Centre. That said, the producers who made presentations often used a mixture of the three to accomplish their goals of understanding their farms, the variability, and making management decisions about them.

Here are some website links for more information, or contact us directly.

2018 Precision Ag Conference:
2018 Farms.Com Precision Ag Conference

DOT from Seedmaster:
DOT Farming System

Climate FieldView:

Join us at the 2018 Chatham Kent Farm Show

We will be attending the CK Farm show this year, on January 24-25, 2018

Here is what we plan to demonstrate for this year’ show:

Raven Products:
Raven Viper 4+ and the brand new CR-7, along with the multi product controller.
Raven SmarTrax Autosteer system
Raven Rate Control Module (ISO multi product controller)
Raven ISO and Standard Chemical Injection systems

Trimble Products:
Trimble TMx 2050 Display and the brand new TMx 1050 Display

Integration with JD and Case systems using ISO technology

We are also pleased to be bringing our Soil Optix Sensor as well as the EM-38 scanner that we have brought to previous shows.

This will enable us to show some techniques for precision soil sampling.

Link to Show Site:

Chatham Kent Farm Show

Managed Money and Grain Markets

In general terms, traders have a pool of money to trade, and then can put these funds wherever they deem they will get the best return.

While many who trade commodities are doing so to offset risk in that commodity, others are doing so to offset risk in other businesses.

In the recent Grain Farmers of Ontario Magazine, there was a great summary article about this. I have attached it:

The full story is Taken from the Grain Farmers of Ontario Website. You can go to it here directly if you wish:

Ontario Grain Farmer

GRAIN FUTURES ARE and always will be affected by outside investments such as managed money funds. With the sheer size of the portfolios managed money funds carry, they have the ability to swing a big stick when it comes to pushing prices higher or lower in the grain market depending on the fund managers motivation and perspective each day.
What is managed money? Managed money funds are funds that investors have placed with qualified managers and institutions. One manager can decide where millions of dollars are invested. Throughout 2017, we saw some major peaks and valleys in the grain futures market. Sometimes the peaks and valleys are easy to justify, other times there seems to be no common sense or logic to it. Although the futures market can appear like it’s a twilight zone and figuring out direction of grain prices can seem like “mission impossible”, it is important to monitor the major players that give momentum to grain futures pushing them higher or lower.

Throughout the 2017 marketing year, managed money funds carried large positions in the futures market. The funds either had a significant long or short position. This depends on whether they are whipping the bull run and expecting the market to go higher, adding to their long position, or letting the bears feast and destroy grain futures pulling them lower and stimulating a move to a short position. This is due in part to fund managers liking or disliking the fundamental news reported and it drives corn, soybean, and wheat prices up or down harder and faster than a rented mule, pushing them in either direction because they feel the market will continue to strengthen or depress. Whatever their motivation is each day or week, it can have a significant impact on grain prices.
Corn, soybean, and wheat price graphs showcase the recent relationship between the managed money fund position and futures prices. This demonstrates how the managed money entering into your grain marketplace has either benefited or hurt your bottom line. As you can see, there are significant correlations to grain prices and the managed money long and short positions.

The Commitment of Traders (CoT) report lists the net positions of each classification of traders including the commercials, managed money, speculators, passive index funds, and small traders. This report is released weekly by the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and is available online and can be found on their website.

Managed money funds will continue to move the grain market and none of us will be able to fully predict the direction they will take grain prices. For grain operations, some pieces of the puzzle to keep in mind are possibilities and probabilities. What is the funds current position? What is the trend? For example, if the funds are running a large net short position in the corn market and corn futures are making new contract lows or near the low, this could be an indication of the market potentially nearing the bottom and as we all know, prices can’t go in the same direction forever. If you step aside and look at that picture, funds are near a record short position and corn is near a record contract low in this scenario — from a futures perspective one might consider to either be on the sidelines or wait for a reversal in the market. If the funds decided to short cover and buy back their corn position, this brings demand into the market and can drive prices higher. As you can see in the corn graph, if the funds were to buy back their short of the 200,000 plus corn contracts, that’s over one billion bushels of corn to buy!

Managed money funds taking long and short positions ultimately affect the price of grain in your bin. From a basis perspective, this can have positive or negative effects. If the funds have a large short position and futures prices are low, this gives potential for the basis to appreciate as the basis is used as a flat price corrector. Don’t forget, the flat price of grain is made up of futures + basis and basis is a combination of forex, supply and demand, and transportation costs to the market you are looking at. Vice versa, if the funds are carrying a long position in the market, this could have negative effects on basis, as the futures prices are higher than the flat price needs to be for willing sellers to price their grain into the marketplace.
The market is a constant evolving beast and everyone is the captain of their own ship. It’s key to know what you are doing and why. If one can make a plan, stick to it and be ready to morph or adapt to fast moving market conditions, this will ultimately lead to success!
The Westland Corporation is a grain brokerage and market insight firm that is agriculturally driven and focused. The Westland Report is an in-depth daily market analysis which provides readers with a quick and concise look at the factors that are affecting their grain prices. •
“————-End Excerpt from Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine.