ISOBUS Heating Up Ag Electronics

Recently I’ve been getting involved in agricultural electronics documentation. Actually, I was never totally out of it. I’ve been writing manuals for ag electronics manufacturers on and off for since the mid-1990s.

In the 1990s I wrote a column for Grainews called Target Farming. I was doing that when a number of  new technologies came together to create the new area of precision agriculture. Those technologies included GPS, remote sensing, variable rate applicators, yield mapping and machine guidance. I started writing columns on precision ag, which led me to end up giving presentations on the subject at various equipment manufacturer’s customer days, trade shows and other events. Eventually I put the columns together with some additional information into a book called Target Farming: A Practical Guide To Precision Agriculture. From time to time I still see copies of the book floating around out there.

As the millennium came to a close it appeared that the initial buzz surrounding precision ag started to give way to serious questions about the agronomics of it all. Since I was more of an electronics guy than an agronomics guy, I moved on to other things. But I kept my hand in the field enough to monitor what was going on…

In the last few years ISOBUS (aka ISO 11783) seems to be rejuvenating the technology side of ag electronics. For the uninitiated, ISOBUS is a standard that enables agricultural electronics systems from different manufacturers to talk to each other. One ISOBUS compatible terminal (typically called a virtual terminal) in the tractor or combine cab can replace several control boxes from various manufacturers. This un-clutters the cab, and standardizes the user interface. To take advantage of this many of the ag electronics manufacturers are now making ISOBUS compatible systems available (variable rate application systems, blockage monitors, etc).

All of this has rejuvenated my interest in the area as well. I have written several manuals related to ISOBUS now, and participated in some hands-on equipment installation. My impression is that this technology, as well as the high costs of ag inputs, is driving a renewed interest in the area by producers who realize they need to take every opportunity to increase efficiency and production. For that reason it seems like a good time to get involved…

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