Business Farming

Friday 30 September 2016

Grassroots product to cut farm costs

A Belfast company has launched a new GPS-based app which can save farmers up to 15pc on fertiliser costs

Chris McCullough

Published 06/04/2016 | 02:30

Grass-Guide aims to save farmers money by increasing their driving efficiency in fields when spreading fertiliser and spraying.
Grass-Guide aims to save farmers money by increasing their driving efficiency in fields when spreading fertiliser and spraying.
Northern Ireland Finance Minister Mervyn Storey announced a £1.4million investment by Sixty-5 Technologies, which aims to create 23 new jobs with the support of Invest Northern Ireland. The Minister, left, is pictured with John Arrell, CEO of Sixty-5 Technologies Ltd.

With farm finances tight and the cost of fertiliser a big burden on cashflow, Belfast company Sixty-5 Technologies Ltd has launched a new simple to use app-based GPS guidance system to help farmers save money.

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Grass-Guide is a system that guides farmers while spreading fertiliser or applying pesticides to help eliminate overlaps and missed areas, thereby making the process more efficient.

The company claims savings of up to 15pc on fertiliser costs could be achieved using GPS as testing has found that the further an operator drives from a fixed reference point, such as a hedge, the higher the pass-to-pass inaccuracy and increased wastage occurs.

Sixty-5's software development team is based in Belfast and the company is led by John Arrell, who has over 15 years experience in precision farming. Mr Arrell was increasingly frustrated that entry-level products on the market were aimed towards the arable and tillage sectors and grass-based farmers were expected to adopt technology not designed primarily for their use. With this in mind he decided to build a team of dedicated people and develop their own system.

"We think Grass-Guide's number one feature is its ease of use," said Mr Arrell. "Once the tractor operator enters the implement width, there is only one button to press to get going. After that the software takes care of everything else."

The system displays a coverage map, guidelines and predicted direction for the operator to follow, eliminating the need for either A-B lines or a light-bar.

The system is built on an android platform and is supplied with a seven inch Samsung tablet. The guidance software itself is an app, which means it is seamlessly updated to ensure the user always has the latest version installed. Grass-Guide uses the latest NovAtel GPS/Glonass Agstar satellite receiver which is globally regarded as the most reliable single band receiver.

The receiver is easily mounted via magnets and is supplied complete with a mounting plate should the tractor have a non-metal cab. The tablet connection to the receiver is via bluetooth and a GPS output is also available to connect to modern implements.

Once the field operation has been completed the as-applied treatment map is sent to a dedicated online cloud portal where it can be later viewed for management and traceability purposes. This means the system will be of interest to both farmers and contractors looking to keep track of jobs as they are carried out.

Sixty-5 Technologies Ltd has received substantial support from Invest NI in order to create an additional 23 jobs in the near future. Mr Arrell explained: "Over the next three years we are aiming to substantially increase both turnover and export sales through developing new products and services and growing our technological capability.

Sustainable farming

"Our long term goal is to accelerate sustainable agriculture through the provision of GPS, to ensure the farming industry optimises the best use of its land. Essentially, farmers need technology to be easy to use and we believe that the data should be there to support them for greater farm profitability.

"Our new technology has already been very well received in the industry and we aim to strengthen our team and bring our ideas to the global marketplace to generate substantial export sales."

The Grass-Guide package comes with the NovaTel GPS receiver, the Samsung Galaxy tablet, Grass-Guide software app and a mounting bracket for the price of £1,399 (€1,775) plus VAT. This isn't the only innovation that the Belfast company have come up with.

Following shortly will be Con-Trac, a simple-to-use solution for agricultural contractors utilising GPS to record operations, price jobs accurately, and share completed jobs with their customers.

Con-Trac enables the contractor to bill more accurately and gives customers full traceability of completed jobs. Readers looking for further information can look on the company website www.sixty-5.com, which contains video footage of the solutions in action.

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