Precision farming is far from a new concept in the agricultural industry. Most tractors are now equipped with their own factory-fitted guidance and autosteer systems. So why would a rural contractor pay for additional precision farming software or hardware?
Simple logistics, advanced data capture, proof of placement, staff safety, fewer errors and automated administration are some of the main benefits, but what about having direct input into the development of the products you are using? Otautau-based Rabco Ag Ltd is doing exactly that.
In the lead-up to their sixth season using TracMap, Rabco Ag has been trialling the company’s latest technology, the revolutionary new TML touchscreen.
Rabco Ag managing director Eddie Rabbitt and his wife Mandy made the decision five years ago to take up TracMap’s GPS guidance and job management system. Eddie says the benefits have been profound and guidance, job tasking and reporting capabilities now integral to the operation and growth of the business.
Located in western Southland, Rabco Ag provides silage, baleage, cultivation and effluent services. The company has a permanent staff 14 and those numbers more than double during the spring and summer season. Managing staff logistics alone can be extremely time consuming, so Eddie and Mandy were looking for a system that would streamline operations across the board.
Their fleet consists of around 30 John Deere tractors along with a few Case IHs and Fendts, plus some earthmoving machinery. Most staff come from outside the region so they are unfamiliar with the lay of the land. Ensuring vehicles and staff are doing the right job in the right place requires expert cat herding.
While years’ of experience had made Eddie pretty perceptive about the whereabouts of his staff and how they were progressing on their jobs, it wasn’t until he installed TracMap that he realised exactly how many efficiencies would be created simply by ‘downloading’ that knowledge from his head, so others in the business could access it.
“TracMap has definitely saved us a lot of running around, and that was a cost you wouldn’t know was there,” he says.
The distances travelled to check on drivers and drop off maps dropped drastically from around 85,000 km to 30,000 km a year. This has meant big savings on fuel, driving times per job, and basic administration and communication efforts.
“We rely on it. Otherwise, I reckon we would be employing another person just running around and coordinating. That’s how I justify TracMap, it’s just like another person in the business, just so much more efficient.”
Since installing their first six units in 2013, Rabco Ag has kept pace with TracMap’s developments. It has upgraded and added new units and Eddie has made suggestions to improve the system.
Many of these suggestions have been adopted by TracMap’s development team, which ensures the technology has features specifically designed to meet the needs of farmers and contractors.
Eddie’s involvement includes testing the beta version of the TML touchscreen, and now their main machines are kitted out with the newly launched units.
The intuitive interface provided by touchscreen means a lot less training for drivers. Being quicker and easier to use has meant fewer mistakes and a shorter turnaround after the job has been completed to invoicing.
Eddie can now delegate job input and task allocation to staff. New drivers are straight into it, because all of the information is in front of them, and those on the night-shift or working the same paddock can see where they and the other drivers are.
The system gives Eddie the peace of mind that he can check on staff from anywhere. It means better health and safety, he can advise newer staff about the most efficient way to work particular paddocks without being there.
By watching the drivers, the office team has more knowledge about the machinery and equipment. This helps when updating customers and invoicing. With custom forms, and integration of invoicing and timesheets in the pipelines the system will continue to provide further efficiencies saving both time and money.
Eddie and Mandy’s goals are to make work as easy and safe as possible, eliminate the paper trail, and spend more time on growing the business. He says investment in technology is the best way to increase efficiency.
“There is a lot of stuff in some tractors that doesn’t even get utilised, which makes them too expensive. But technology does drive growth. It is all about guidance, getting information back and forth for contractors and farmers, and utilising that machine more.
“We are still just as busy, but we are able to get the growth because we are more efficient.”
Article first featured in December 2018-January 2019 Issue of Rural Contractor & Large Scale Farmer Magazine