CropVistas - The Name
As the second definition of “vistas” suggests, CropVistas is a digital view of a recorded succession of events. For CropVistas this succession of events are “Critical Tracking Events” that occur during either commodity planting or harvesting operations. The diligent recording of these events becomes the foundation for all requiring a traceable history of a harvested commodity. In addition to the legacy financial return on investment and crop performance more recent initiatives include Climate Smart Commodities, Sustainability, and Carbon Credits.
In the past twenty plus years the agricultural equipment industry has made great strides in the areas of product placement of crop inputs and commodity harvest yield documentation. For example, with properly calibrated and maintained equipment it is now possible to apply crop inputs and variable and accurate rates at precise pre-planned locations in the field. In addition, seeds can be placed at optimum depths and with prescribed down force pressure. Similarly other crop inputs such as fertilizers and chemicals can be applied at variable rates and locations across a field as directed by an agronomist prepared set of digital instructions or “map”. These enhancements are today being provided as “standard equipment” on most modern tractors. Features that, 20 years ago, would have cost the grower thousands of dollars.
While these described advancements have provided the grower with impressive ROI with value propositions of reduced and/or optimized crop inputs, further improvements and value are being hindered by the absence of two critical features. Features which the equipment industry seems reluctant to address. These two features are:
1. Systems to positively identify crop input products either before or at the time of application,
2. Collection of data which spans and connects processes/operations to allow for traceability of commodity crops.
The primary objective of CropVistas is to provide the grower with simple tools to address these feature gaps.
While providing these important features is critical, it is not the intent of CropVistas to replace the machine control and work records provided by current modern equipment. What is being collected today is excellent data and should be used.
Primary Objective 1: Crop Input Product Identification
CropVistas provides four methods to identify crop input products. Currently CropVistas focuses on seed products but all methods could be adapted to other crop inputs. Some of the methods require preparation and planning prior to planting and others are performed in the field at the time of planting. Instructions for using the mobile app to identify products will be covered later in the CropVistas User Manual. The following is a description of each method.
This is the most flexible method which can literally be used to define all types of crop inputs however the illustrations will focus on seed products. In this method the user simply defines the product in as much detail as desired using the “New Product” UI.
Most of the entries are self explanatory with the input totally defined by the user. The only required entry is “Product Name”. This entry will be added to a pick list which is presented to the user at planting time. For this reason, this should be defined such that it can be easily recognized by the planter operator and also easily distinguished from other entries added to the list.
Other recommended entries are “Product Form” and “Primary Crop”. It is also possible to take a picture of the product label which may be helpful to later better identify the product. All of this detail including an optional picture are part of the product entry in the internal database.
Product Identifiers and Classifications
In addition to the data included in the UI it is also possible to “attach” identifiers and/or classifications which may be helpful during planting and post planting analysis. Identifiers include GTIN and lot number. Classifications include seed size, seed shape and seed mixtures. These mechanics of implementing these advanced entries will be further described later in the CropVistas Users Manual section.
This method is best performed in the field at the time’s the planter is being refilled. Although any barcode or QR code can be scanned and recorded it works best with barcodes which comply with the GS-128 standard. These barcodes have published data elements which can be easily parsed from the raw barcode data. The key elements include:
1. Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): This number is registered by the manufacturer can be referenced in AgGateway AGIIS (www.agiis.org) or GS1 (https://gepir.gs1.org/index.php/search-by-gtin ). I was originally defined for supply chain applications and is a confluence of product and packaging.
2. Lot Number: This number is assigned by the manufacture at the time of manufacturer and is not available in published crop lists. With the help of the seed retailer and manufacturer this number can be helpful in diagnosing crop failures or under performance.
3. Manufacturer: The manufacturer that registered the product GTIN.
When scanning a barcode or QR code which is not not GS128 compliant, the system will simply record the raw scanned data which may be further referenced with the manufacturer. As with the “User Defined” method these product definitions may also be enhanced with identifiers and/or classifications.
Photo with Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
For in-field product identification when barcodes are not available or available barcodes are not useful, an alternative is to simply take a picture of one or more identifying tags or labels. The text in these pictures can be extracted using simple OCR and recorded. In the future if there is sufficient interest, this text may be processed into meaningful data. However, currently CropVistas only records and presents the raw text.
AgGateway WG09 - Grower & Season Specific Curated List
The fourth method of crop input product identification is perhaps the most valuable but is also the most complicated to implement and participate. It is the primary deliverable of the AgGateway Working Group 20 - “In-Field Product Identification”. In short, this project produces a grower and season specific list of purchased seeds by intercepting and reformatting the electronic messaging between the seed distributer and seed retailer. Currently this process is limited to the OAG “shipped item instance message” but could be modified to support other messaging systems…if there is interest.
Unfortunately, this is not a product identification that is readily available to most growers….at least not yet. This method requires the participation of a willing seed retailer as well as a business entity willing to host the service on their platform. If these participants are identified the end result is a seed list which may be imported into the grower’s planter control system. This seed list is then presented to the planter operator in a pick list in the control terminal. This list is well attributed as it includes product name as well as all available identifiers and classifications which is good. What is not good is the no current OEM native formats support this type of list. The only type of control terminals which supports this list without severe limitations are those terminals which are IEO11783 v.4.0 compliant. These are quire common in Europe but not in North America.
Primary Objective 2: Data Collection for Traceability
As previously acknowledged control systems and data collection available on current agriculture equipment do an excellent job of creating detailed work records, with the exception of product identification, for the specific field operation for which they were designed. In other words, planter control systems create planting records, sprayers create spraying work records etc. While this is valuable data what these systems don’t do is record how specific instances of each operation related to specific instances of other operations. A good case study of this missing information is the relationship between a seed tender and a planter. During the process of planting a field the send tender will be used to refill the planter several times. This refill operation is an important link between the “field” and the “supply chain” but it is seldom recorded. The same is true for sprayers and fertilizer applicators etc. They all require refill events but none are ever record.
Transfer events are one type of traceability data components called Critical Tracking Events (CTE). One of the CropVistas primary objectives is to provide a means to document CTEs which occur during both planting and harvesting operations.
Crop Input Products - Trace from Supply Chain to Field
These “refill events” are transfer events and are a critical component of traceability. They are used to track the movement of crop input products from supply chain to field. This will serve to better define the identify of the crop inputs being applied to a field. Currently, the focus has been on seeds but the same concepts can be applied to all crop inputs.
Opportunity for Innovation
In addition to detailed and referenceable product identification CropVistas also produces a trace of the approximate product placement. However, the accuracy of this “as applied” is limited by two things:1. GPS accuracy at WAAS levels and 2. Lack of detailed knowledge of the implement geometry including “effective” implement width.
Combining the data set from CropVistas with the as-applied from the OEM application control system should deliver the best of both worlds. The product identification from CropVistas and the detailed and accuracy product placement from the OEM control system.
Harvested Commodities - Trace from Field to Storage or Marketing Entity
Similar transfer events occur during harvest which are used to track commodities from field to market. During harvest several transfer events occur in the movement of commodity grains from the fields to storage: These include: field->harvester, harvester->grain cart, grain cart->semi, semi-> storage. Linking these events together produces a trace which allows complete definition of the grain being delivered to the marketing entity.
However, this accurate trace requires constant attention to detail by the operators in each vehicle and several well timed “button clicks”. This can be tedious and is subject to errors.
Opportunity for Innovation
Most of the OEM equipment in both the harvester and grain cart are equipped with CAN communication systems. By integrating the CropVistas mobile device with the CAN messaging system would eliminate almost all of the tedious “button pushes” in CropVistas without any loss of data quality. This would be a much better user experience for the grower/operator.