SIMPAS takes printer & cartridge concept to the field

Think of your planter as a high-resolution field printer.

Instead of multiple colours of ink, it’s dispensing combinations of micronutrients and crop protection products in-furrow.

A U.S. company is following the concept of an inkjet printer, with plans to commercialize a system for applying precise amounts as needed at varying rates in each row.

SIMPAS, which stands for Smart, Integrated, Multi-product, Prescriptive Application System, was developed and patented by California-based AMVAC Chemical Corporation. The technology was on display last week in Decatur, Illinois, tucked in the AMVAC tent at the 2017 Farm Progress Show.

The SIMPAS demo on display at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois.

“We use software to tell the system where to put chemicals in the field the same way a printer uses software to tell it where to put ink on the page,” explains Rick Rice, director of application technology for AMVAC. “To continue with that concept, we package the chemicals into what we call SmartCartridges. They communicate with the system and the prescriptive software so that as the tractor makes a single pass through the field we have multiple products that turn on and off, and the rate goes up and down based on what the prescriptive software tells it to do.”

AMVAC sees this system delivering low volume liquid and dry micronutrients, insecticides, fungicides, and nematicides in one pass, with accuracy within +/- 1 percent in each row.

“The objective is to help the farmer be a better steward of his pocketbook and the environment,” Rice explains in the video below.

Both the metering units, which contain small brush augers, and the brackets for holding the cartridges are aftermarket installations, fitting on a range of planter brands’ toolbars.

The self-contained SmartCartridges used to transport and dispense each product come with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology allowing the software to identify what’s in each container and track how much has been used. AMVAC will sell its own chemical products in these cartridges, but also plans to license and market the technology through other crop input manufacturers and suppliers as a closed delivery platform with no jug disposal or cleanout required. Farmers would bring these cartridges to a local retailer to be replaced or refilled. The RFID-based tracking technology would allow a farm to receive a refund for any unused product, explains Rice.

AMVAC tested SIMPAS on more than 5,000 acres in the U.S. in 2017. Further testing will involved select Simplot Grower Solution locations in 2018, with a full commercial launch planned for 2020, says Rice. AMVAC signed a memorandum of understanding with Trimble in August that would see Trimble’s dealer network distribute SIMPAS equipment globally.

Check out the video above for more on the SIMPAS concept, where farmers will get the data to ‘print’ at this resolution, and AMVAC’s plans for rolling out this technology. And find more coverage from the ’17 Farm Progress Show here.

 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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