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How to Choose a GPS System for Your Farm

If you don’t already have your GPS system integrated with your farming machinery (many machines come with the system already installed) you’ll need to install the system yourself. This gives you the opportunity to find the best GPS system for your farm management needs. So, what should you be looking for when it comes to picking a system?

Before we get onto the details you need to look for in the GPS, you’ll first need to analyse what you need the GPS for on your farm. Is it simply to track which end of the field you’re in while tilling and spraying? Or perhaps you’re looking for a more complex system that can handle your new precision agriculture adventures… either way, list the qualities you need in your GPS system before you start so you don’t get distracted by the top of the range models with features you don’t even need!

 Choosing a Guidance System

There are 3 types of GPS systems, choosing the right one for you depends on how you’ll use the GPS on your farm.

USCGBS: This stands for United States Coast Guard Beacon Signal. As you probably already guessed, this type of guidance signal can only be used near large bodies of water where the US Coast Guards have built a beacon. While this is free, you do have the problem of the weather interfering with the data.

Satellite Based Correction Signals: These aren’t free; however, they are available worldwide and make use of satellites to direct data to you. Of course, you’ll need to pay the owners of the satellites and whomever runs the system, but this data tends to be more accurate and consistent than USCGBS signals.

WAAS: This stands for Wide Area Augmentation System. Basically, this is the same as satellite based correction signals except it’s free and provided by the Federal Aviation Administration in America.

For farm jobs that require a high degree of accuracy, say planting and other precision agriculture tasks, you’ll need the most accurate system possible. For less accurate jobs, tilling for example, you can go for a less accurate system.

How Will It Be Mounted?

The GPS system will need to be attached to your machinery that you plan to use it on. If a GPS system only comes with one monitor for one vehicle, ensure that it is easy to move from one farm vehicle to another as needed.

Some GPS systems may need to be placed right at the front of the vehicle while others at the back. Furthermore, some can only be kept under shelter, in the cab and away from the elements as you plough through the fields. Check that the GPS systems you are considering are compatible with the machines you plan to use them on.

Taking it one step further, consider how long your farm machines have before they likely need replacing with different models. If it’s in the near future, consider a GPS system that can easily adapt to new machines as well as your current selection.

What Is the Update Rate?

The update rate is simply the rate of data per second. The higher the update rate, the more location information is provided to the machine per second. While a higher rate won’t make the GPS system more accurate, it does mean that the system as a whole will operate faster, giving you the data quicker and allowing you more time to change course or stop if you spot any problems.

Most GPS systems will already have an update rate installed that’s capable of managing the system requirements of the GPS system, however you might want to consider the fact that as technology evolves and we move forward in precision agriculture, file sizes and information gets more detailed, more accurate and bigger. Having a capable GPS system that can keep up for a while will be very beneficial.

Price

If you’ve followed the above points, you probably now have a few GPS systems in mind that meet all your requirements. The last thing you want to do is check the price. First of all, look at what is included with the GPS system: do you need to purchase extra cabling to connect it with your machines and computer systems? When calculating the price, make sure to include all add-ons that you might need to purchase for the GPS system to integrate and function correctly.

Another price factor you’ll want to calculate is how much this GPS system will pay for itself – how much yield improvement can you expect after purchasing the GPS? Do your own calculations based on what the manufacturer claims and your own farm simulations. You can also check with farmers who already use this GPS system for comparable data.

As you research deeper into the GPS systems available you’ll find many different features to compare – just keep referring back to your original list of requirements for a GPS system to ensure you stay on track. Good luck with finding the right one for your farm! And don’t forget to leave a comment on your final GPS choice below.

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