"Keep it simple" is good advice in any area. It's especially relevant in the ever-changing world of farm technology, where busy farmers can't afford to spend time to master every complicated new digital tool.
With that in mind, Valley Irrigation recently introduced its ICON family of smart panels, which replaces the TouchPro, PRO2 and Select2 series of panels. While the new panels are able initiate a wide array of functions for an irrigation pivot, the user interface is simple to use for anyone who already has mastered the basics of a cell phone or tablet.
With ICON panels, irrigators can start and stop pivots, program variable rate functions and set end gun patterns. The user can monitor and change functions remotely if the panel is connected to the internet via cell modem or private network. Some ICON models can be operated via an Edge-of-Field wireless feature.
The ICON panels also expand use of Valley's AgSense and BaseStation3 features. These include integrating information from sensors on soil moisture, weather and water applied. Data from those sensors will be incorporated into other data collected by the ICON panels. The data is sent at intervals to the Cloud, where it is easily retrievable. Farmers can use the data to write new prescriptions or to share with business partners such as crop advisors.
All of this and more are doable with familiar touchscreen controls, much like what farmers use on their mobile Apple or Android devices.
"We are trying to push the 'easy button,'" said Len Adams, president of Valley Global Irrigation.
Valley created four levels of ICON panels. The ICON10 is the flagship of the group and comes with a 10-inch full color touchscreen display. MSRP is $5,680.
ICON Edge-of-Field WiFi is an option with ICON10 and is standard with ICON1. The feature allows a user to access the control panel with a mobile device as long as he is in line of sight of the panel's antenna. When connected, the user can control the pivot on his mobile device; no need even to leave the cab of his pickup.
ICON5 has most of the same features as the ICON10 and uses a 5-inch full color touchscreen interface and also includes soft touch buttons for feature selection and navigation. MSRP is $4,720.
ICON1 does not have its own touchscreen display. Instead, the user connects his mobile device to it either remotely via the internet or using the Edge-of-Field WiFi. The mobile device then becomes the interface with all the functionality of a touchscreen ICON. MSRP is $4,280.
ICONX has a 5-inch full color touchscreen soft touch buttons as the ICON5 but uses an existing control panel -- either Valley or another brand -- as a host to pass through commands. "It takes an outdated pivot and makes it 21st century," said Brian Petersen, a Minden, Nebraska, farmer who test-drove an ICON last year. MSRP is $2,495.
All the ICON panels are designed to be upgradable and adaptable to future innovations, said Steve Kaniewski, COO of Valmont Industries, which owns Valley. He sees smart panels as a "beach head" for future data collection and transmission technologies, because irrigation pivots are "the only product that sits in the field all year round," Kaniewski said.
Jim Patrico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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