Imagine pulling into your field with a super sprayer equipped with technology that identifies weeds, fungus and even plant nutritional needs, then mixes and applies the necessary inputs all on the same trip through the field.
That ability is nearly a reality thanks to Netherlands-based Agrifac, which just announced its new sprayer equipped with this on-the-fly technology. It is being developed and tested on fields in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and the U.S.
With more than 600 sensors, the new sprayer--Condor Endurance II--has several novel features, with the AiCPlus camera system being the standout, says Frank van Mastwijk, U.S. and Canada country manager for Agrifac. AiCPlus is pronounced “I See Plus,” which also stands for artificial intelligence.
Detecting Needs. “Weed control is not the biggest advantage with this technology,” van Mastwijk admits. “It’s more about giving plants what they need, like fertilizer, insecticide or fungicide. It’s going to take us awhile to work with farmers to identify issues so we can add to the database and algorithm.”
Agrifac’s in-house research and development engineers have built the database and smart algorithms with help from suppliers and farmers.
To identify plant problems, intelligent AiCPlus self-learning cameras are mounted directly on the boom 10 feet apart. The sprayer’s onboard computer system processes and analyzes the image data, and can do it all while running up to 20 mph.
A 2,100-gallon tank mounted on the sprayer holds fresh water. Up to four different crop products can be injected with water at the boom and sprayed. Camera readings and field grid maps already loaded into the computer system assist. “We can carry about four different products now, but it could be more,” says Wim Ziel, sales manager.
Boom nozzles open and close up to 100 times a second to ensure the right chemical is sprayed at the right dose in the right place, Ziel adds.
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“For now, we can only make a herbicide or a fertilizer application,” van Mastwijk says. “Our plan is that fungicides will come later this year, and then we hope to stitch it all together and apply multiple applications at once.”
Fine-Tuned Application. In addition to the camera technology, the sprayer also comes equipped with these precision features:
• StrictSprayPlus to prevent overlap and allow every nozzle to be switched on and off individually. It also compensates when making turns to keep an even application rate.
• StrictHeightPlus to keep the boom at the right height on uneven land. A fully integrated boom-control system makes sure the movements of the machine are not passed on to the boom. Four wide-view sensors provide an overview of the crop and help keep a more accurate spraying height regardless of the terrain.
• DynamicDosePlus that applies every spray drop where it is needed to give plants the right product.
• SmartDosePlus that injects plant protection or other products directly into the spray line and mixes without contaminating the main water tank. Cleaning is simplified because only spray lines need to be flushed.
The top line, self-propelled Condor Endurance II--fully equipped with all the new technology--comes with up to a 180-foot boom, 400-hp engine and 2,100-gallon water tank. According to Agrifac, the new sprayer will be available spring 2019, and the price will vary depending on options.
Pieter Evenhuis has been using the previous Condor Endurance model with a 150-foot boom for two years on his operation at Giethoorn in east-central Netherlands. He’s also a cooperator with Agrifac and gets to test the latest technology. He grows 650 acres of potatoes, 125 acres of corn silage, 125 acres of wheat and 125 acres of sugar beets.
“I was using three pull-type sprayers until I started with Agrifac in 2010,” he says. “Then, I replaced them with one self-propelled unit.”
After seven seasons and adding more acres, he needed more capacity and started testing the Endurance II. He now has all the new options on his sprayer minus cameras. Those should come next year.
“We’re not saving money on chemicals, but we’re only putting them where they’re needed,” he says. “Our government has strict rules on spraying, so we must put on chemicals at the right place.
“What I like about the Agrifac sprayer is that, even with all the technology on it, it’s not difficult to use. It’s simple and automated,” he says.
With sales offices in 29 countries, Agrifac’s history dates back to 1939, when it was called Centraal Bureau and sold potato sprayers. In 1973, it added sugar beet harvesters to its lineup; and in 2009, it became Agrifac. Today, still located in east-central Netherlands, at Steenwijk, it specializes only in high-tech sprayers and sugar beet harvesters.
“Brilliant Simple” is how company CEO Peter Millenaar describes Agrifac’s role in modern agriculture. “We want people who use our machines to be happy and enjoy life.”
To do that, Agrifac has developed a concept it calls Need Farming, which is a farming-management idea based on observing, measuring and responding to differences in crops, soil and other variables, thereby reacting to the individual needs of every single plant.
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