Farmers’ software optimizes field passes
First Pass is a guidance line software that enables farm equipment working on the same field to work efficiently together by creating one correct route that any of the machines can take anywhere on the field. | First Pass photo
Software developed by two Saskatchewan farmers creates guidance lines in a machine’s navigational software that reduces inefficient field passes.
The idea for the guidance-line software, called First Pass, was conceived by Lane Story when he was analyzing traffic patterns on his fields.
“I was doing it manually on paper because I couldn’t figure out a way to automate that process. What I wanted to do was analyze on a desktop computer different options for travel and see what the results were, but there just were no products on the market,” Story said.
Story farms near Kindersley, Sask., and he approached Ian Coutts, who also farms in the area, in 2012 for help working on a program that analyzes field path patterns.
“That then evolved into filing a number of patents to protect the method to find a solution to the problem. From there what we did is we started to develop the product and then test it,” Story said.
The two worked with software developers to create a field-ready version that can be used in any brand of farm equipment, and for different farm operations including seeding, spraying and harvest.
“Ian’s farm is around 100,000 acres, so the data produced off that farm, there is a high correlation of accuracy on efficiencies of the industry,” Story said.
Coutts said as his farm started to grow, he noticed wasted and incomplete field passes because operators sometimes took incorrect guidance lines in relation to other machines.
He recognized a need for software such as First Pass, which creates one specific path for all of the machines to follow.
“There is always a waste factor, but what we’ve done is somewhat limited that waste factor,” Coutts said.
He said system allows lead operators to assign work paths for the less-experienced operators.
“It made the whole operation run a lot smoother with a lot less lost efficiency of the equipment.”
He said when his equipment is tracked over several years and with different crews, the units using the software show greater efficiency than the units not using it.
“It gave a synergy to the equipment as operators move from field to field; to control your people became far easier. Instead of picking a row beyond some identified landmark or something, it was very easy,” Coutts said.
“Everyone’s software is the same. We’re all reading the same information, so it became very simple to direct your operators throughout the day.”
Coutts’s son, Matt Coutts, said First Pass recently merged with a Calgary company called Whipcord, where he works as a program manager.
He said First Pass uses existing boundaries in the navigation software, then calculates the most efficient field passes. That information is then delivered to the equipment.
“It’s very similar to what an existing guidance line would be, it’s just put in the right position,” Matt said.
Ian Coutts recently won an innovation award from Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, a consultancy firm specializing in conservation, for the efficiency gains made on his farm by using First Pass.
The cost of the program is $2 per acre.
Originally published by Robin Booker at The Western Producer.