New Technology Automates End-Row Turning


This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of CropLife magazine.

By Robin Siktberg, Custom Content Editor, Meister Media Worldwide

Raven has taken VSN™, its new visual guidance system just launched in October 2019, and is making it even better. After solving one pain point for operators –the fatigue of having to keep their eyes continually on the rows – Raven engineers tackled another one, end-row turning. This new software update to the VSN package will be released this fall* and takes away the tedium of manually counting and precise steering while turning into the next set of rows, eliminating the miscalculation and crop damage that often results.

VSN Increases Efficiency, Reduces Driver Fatigue

The VSN system provides real-time row detection through a camera attached to a sprayer or other equipment and is more accurate than standard GPS steering.

“Once a crop is around 4-inches tall, the VSN camera can detect the rows,” says Ben Sees, product manager for Raven. “It uses an algorithm to determine what is a row and what is not. Because it is so much more accurate than a manual operator or a GPS system, crop damage is significantly reduced.”

The VSN reduces inefficiencies in other ways, too. Because the operator doesn’t have to continually focus on the rows ahead, he can pay attention to other details, such as clogged tips or a tile inlet that may hit a boom. It also allows the machine to go faster without increasing risk of crop damage.

“We can run faster since our technology is electronically steering the machine.” Sees says. “The efficiency picture comes into full focus when you can run faster and operate at longer run times because you don’t have as much operator fatigue. You can cover more acres while damaging less crop.”

Raven’s test operators reported being able to go three to four times faster per hour than their usual speed without VSN. Using an example of a 120-foot boom, if you gain 4 miles per hour, it’s an increase of more than 50 acres per hour.

While the VSN system does not rely on GPS, and actually is an excellent solution where a reliable GPS signal is lacking, it can use GPS as a backup to the camera.

“If you come to a washout, and there’s no crop, the GPS kicks in and steers the machine until the camera can detect the row again,” Sees says. “Then it automatically switches back to VSN Plus mode most times without the operator knowing.”

End-Row Turning Made Easy

Even with the improved accuracy of the VSN, the inefficiencies of end-row turning remained. With the new software update, that’s no longer the case. The VSN will now guide the machine down the most optimized path to the next group of rows, automatically calculating how many rows to skip according to the size of the boom. The system accurately positions the equipment to enter the end rows to avoid crop damage, which is a common occurrence when steering manually.

“While using standard GPS steering or manual steering, you aren’t taking the most optimized path to the next round,” Sees says. “If you are driving and counting rows, it’s inevitable with the size and spread of today’s modern equipment that there will be some crop damage. While it doesn’t seem like much, end row crop damage can add up quickly, ultimately decreasing yields.”

With the VSN’s new end-row turning capability, all an operator has to do as he nears the end of the row is slow down the machine to a speed appropriate for turning, Sees says.

“The operator is not required to touch the wheel,” he says. “Raven technology calculates the boom width and uses the VSN camera to detect the rows for the next pass. When the machine gets to the right row, it auto turns and enters the right row with minimal crop damage.”

Sees stresses that the VSN technology is highly integrated ecosystem with Raven’s current autosteer package and needs to be used within that system.

“Raven technology increases the efficiency of your equipment to that of a professional operator by increasing efficiency, reducing waste and allowing coverage of more acres,” Sees says. The technology makes the difficult decisions for you. The efficiency gains directly equate to dollars saved.”

* This has been updated since the original article was released in January 2020. The software update will be available Fall 2020, not Spring 2020.