Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Production Research
GPS technology has a place on farm, says farm advisor

April 17, 2008  By Dan Wooley

Farmers are finding a new
technological resource in the satellite-borne global positioning system
(GPS), which is becoming more and more adaptable and useful to farmers.

gpsFarmers are finding a new technological resource in the satellite-borne global positioning system (GPS), which is becoming more and more adaptable and useful to farmers.

Will MacNeill, a cole crop, soybean and grain producer from O’Leary, P.E.I., has been involved with agricultural applications of GPS technology since 1995. As a certified farm advisor, he provides GPS services to Atlantic farmers.


GPS was first used in agriculture for field mapping and soil sampling. The technology has since grown with its current most common uses being field mapping and vehicle guidance, said MacNeill. GPS can also be used to determine material application rates for locations in a field, rates which can be constant or variable.

GPS technology operates through 24,000 satellites orbiting the globe. These satellites provide constant coordinates from space which can be used to pinpoint terrestrial locations within less than a metre. Cross these coordinates with those provided by four geo-synchronous satellites, which occupy constant positions over our planet, a position can be marked on earth with an accuracy of within two centimetres.

In a farm situation, this technology can be utilized through a base station, which could be located adjacent to a farm field. The base station would beam an electronic signal to an overhead geo-synchronous satellite. This satellite would then send a signal back to a piece of farm machinery or tractor (fitted with a signal receiver) operating in the field adjacent to the base station. This information can then be used by the equipment operator to provide precise guidance.

MacNeill explained that many custom applicators now have GPS technology mounted on their machinery in order to provide field maps to their farmer-clients as to where, and how much, chemical and/or fertilizer was applied. Precision GPS uses also include bed preparation, fertilizer and pesticide applications, row and field cultivation, ripping, ploughing, and harvesting. In water management, the technology can also be used to assist in the laying down of drip tape.

The system can also guide a farm vehicle to avoid overlap or skipping in applications, thereby saving money and input material. MacNeill said an autopilot can be applied to help steer tractors and other equipment. It will work in fog and can help extend working hours in the field to after dark and, since the technology offers such precise guidance in field operations, it can minimize field damage and reduce operator fatigue.

GPS can help farmers by reducing the number of field operations and the amount of time spent in the field while simultaneously increasing the opportunities to plant and increase crop yield through more precise planting. This can increase the capacity of farm machinery and, through increased application accuracy, not waste crop production chemicals between the rows.

“The whole idea is to improve productivity,” said MacNeill.

Print this page


Stories continue below