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Feeding the Technology Frenzy

matt ondrejko

Matt Ondrejko, Valley’s vice president for global marketing, explains the features on ICON5, including the 5-inch screen and soft-touch buttons for ease of operations.

As the world takes the fast track with technology, the world’s eaters have led, even forced, food producers to get better at what they do.

Technology often is the driver needed to produce more food, but the benefit needs to be spread over multiple levels of the food chain.

'Population growth is important,' said Len Adams, president of global irrigation for Valley Irrigation. 'They want to eat, and that takes more to feed the world.'

Just 3 percent of the water on earth is fresh water, so delivering water to fields efficiently, as center pivots do, is a high priority for producers, Adams said, and it also will help grow the ethanol industry.

'Net farm income is important, but it’s the only driver that isn’t good now,' Adams said. 'Agriculture, we hope, is at the bottom of the cycle now. Hopefully it won’t get worse.'

For the producer, any way to minimize costs while relieving pressures of time and stress will help the bottom line. As farmers’ fields continue to spread farther apart, any technology that can reduce road time with higher levels of resource efficiencies is a top goal.

On Jan. 2, Valley Irrigation introduced ICON, a series of smart panels designed to extend technology.

'Growers will see firsthand the ease of operation with a very simple interface that’s extremely intuitive,' said John Campbell, Valley’s manager of Technology Advancement and Adoption.

ICON’s four panel sizes will provide the variety that growers need, he said, with full-color touchscreen interface that will work on used as well as new pivots. They are able to upgrade an existing panel and can adapt to other brands.

'The ICON panels have expanded connectivity on a smart relay board, so they are ready for future upgrades,' Campbell said. 'Each panel comes equipped with AgSense ICON Link, so all four models are compatible with both AgSense and BaseStation3 telemetry technology.

'That makes it easy for growers to view data and control their pivots remotely, whether they’re expanding existing networks or just starting with remote monitoring and control.'

The four ICON panels:

  • ICON10 - 10-inch color touchscreen display, works much like a tablet but at the pivot point; provides the features of Valley’s Pro2 control panel but with more memory and speed; GPS ready and works with Valley Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI) Speed Control, VRI Zone Control and VRI Individual Sprinkler programs.
  • ICON5 - same features at ICON10 but on a smaller 5-inch display and soft-touch buttons.
  • ICON1 - full touchscreen control with a remote device, with desktop, tablet or smartphone with an ICON app on iOS and Android.
  • ICONX - brings any control panel, including all major pivot brand panels, into the AgSense and BaseStation3 network, a way to upgrade and put more pivots on one network.

Dealers and growers, brought in for Valley’s product introduction for news media, had favorable reactions for trial runs.

'We do a lot with technology and the Pro2 panel worked well for us. It did everything,' said Jeremiah Johnson, project manager for Central Valley Irrigation in Holdrege, Neb. 'But the ICON10 is very intuitive. We needed no instruction with the prototype and had no questions.'

Blake Reid, a Valley dealer in Georgia, said he was selling Pro2 models but it didn’t take long to get comfortable with ICONs. 'No matter what level of grower, there was no sacrifice for anything.'

Scott Everidge, who irrigates 2,500 acres in Georgia, said he was intimidated at first. 'We do a lot of pivot moving, then when I think of the ease, this is what I need. I’m running 40 pivots. ... This might not make more money, but it saves a lot of time.'

Everidge cited ICON’s ease in operation. 'If I can run it, any idiot can run it,' he said.

Adams, Valley’s global president, commented about the emphasis on providing products that make life easier with usable information. 'This technology is not an end. It’s never done. There’ll be more to come.'

Valley has more than 500 dealers worldwide, including operations in China, Argentina and Dubai.

'We think we’re in a unique position to move this forward,' said Steve Kaniewski, Valmont Industries president and chief operating officer. 'We’re open architecture, so people can easily hook into our machines, companies large and small, all so growers can feed the world. At the end of the day, it’s net farm income.'

Used by permission of Midwest Messenger