Valtra makes precision farming accessible to everyone

Dutch contractor makes full use of precision farming functionalities

Dutch contractor Christel Thijssen makes full use of the precision farming functionalities of Valtra tractors. By using the state-of-the-art technology offered by Valtra together with the local Cloudfarm farm intelligence platform, he is able to pass on the benefits to his customers.

Precision farming is already established in agriculture, but the only way to get the last farmers to adopt it is to demonstrate the benefits,” says Christel Thijssen, a contractor from the northern Dutch village of Nieuwehorne.

Thijssen has always been at the forefront whenever new opportunities present themselves for his contracting business. The same goes for precision farming. 

When Thijssen purchased a Valtra T174 Direct with SmartTouch in the spring of 2019, he already had a clear idea of how to use functions such as AutoGuideTaskDoc and variable rate control (VRC). Even more possibilities opened up when the Benelux Valtra importer Mechan Group and software developer Dacom Farm Intelligence linked AGCO tractor-implement combinations to Dacom’s farm intelligence platform Cloudfarm.

A second SmartTouch screen enables Thijssen to view the data from the tractor and attached Isobus implement simultaneously without swiping.

Automatic storage of crop data

We want to do more with data from the tractor and implement in the future, in addition you need cultivation and crop data. Dacom has a strong position in that field and operates internationally,” says Marc de Haan, who is responsible for Valtra imports at Mechan Group. 

It also appealed to us that you can combine tractor data in Cloudfarm with, for example, soil or satellite maps. When Thijssen told us how he wanted to use task files from cultivation plans to control machines, he proved to be the ideal partner to further discover and develop the precision farming possibilities of Valtra tractors. The local Valtra dealer Van der Vegt also joined in enthusiastically,” de Haan adds.

Communication with customers

The Cloudfarm platform offered Thijssen the ideal solution for recording soil and crop data by sections and linking it to the cultivation plan or tractor data, for example. Above all, however, Thijssen uses Cloudfarm to communicate with his customers.

My customers can log in to my Cloudfarm account and access data about own sections. For example, the customer can create a task to fertilise plot A with 250 kilos of fertiliser B. The amount spread can also be adjusted for different parts of the section. I then send the task to my Valtra via TaskDoc at the press of a button. When I get to the section, the tractor automatically recognises the field and I activate the task file. Then all I have to do is manoeuvre to the start of the first wayline. Valtra AutoGuide and the automatic Section Control then take over and control my fertiliser spreader. At the same time, TaskDoc records the work that has been performed. This data is also needed for administrative purposes, as documentation about fertilising is mandatory in the Netherlands,” Thijssen explains.

Approximately 70 percent of his customers use Cloudfarm to share task files with Thijssen. It is also very simple to connect to the official field section register in the Netherlands.

Tractor contractor Christel Thijssen, Frenk-Jan Baron from software developer Dacom Farm Intelligence and Valtra dealer Mathijs van der Vegt inspect a cultivation plan.

No overlapping

Thijssen usually charges 8 euros per hectare for spreading fertiliser, and customers can pay an additional 2 euros for precision farming data. The benefits of this data are significant, Thijssen confirms.

There is no overlap in the headlands and along the edges, no grain of fertiliser gets into the ditches, and the spreading is even over the entire field. I also work much more efficiently with my equipment; I don’t drive too much. On livestock farms I have already achieved savings in fertilisers of around 40 percent. And there is much more to be achieved. Many livestock farmers do precision farming in the barn, but not yet on the land.”

Site-specific spreading and spraying

If the customer wants, Thijssen can also perform site-specific spreading and spraying. A map is created using free satellite images or with data from his Yara N-Sensor. This too offers considerable benefits. 

With site-specific spreading and spraying, you get a more homogeneous crop and the quality of forage is more even. The price is a little more expensive, but you still get all the benefits of precision farming.”

Despite the prospects, the contractor finds that the step towards site-specific spreading and spraying is still a barrier for many livestock farmers. 

They are often insufficiently aware of differences in the soil. And they are often also attached to their old ways of working, giving the same fertiliser dose after every cut. In the winter I will talk to them about the alternative approach I can offer them. Little by little we will convince more and more customers of the benefits. Rising fertiliser prices are also a helping hand.

Height maps and scans of crop growth are used to create fertilising plans. The lower part of this section in blue has experienced flooding, which means that crop growth there is lagging behind (yellow-red areas on the NDVI map). Agronomically, a higher fertiliser dose in the better places marked in green provides the highest return.

Tailored solutions

Contractor Thijssen now has a system that makes it possible to communicate simply and precisely with customers.

Valtra only makes tractors, so it benefits from the fact that data can be communicated with implements by all brands. My contacts at Dacom also believe that AGCO brands work best together using Isobus,” Thijssen says. 

Thijssen’s Valtra dealer Van der Vegt has also played an important role. 

My dealer was absolutely indispensable, from ordering the tractor to commissioning it. For example, I really wanted to control the fertiliser spreader on a second SmartTouch screen, and Van der Vegt consulted with the Valtra factory to make this possible. And communication with my Yara N-Sensor also required a tailored solution. Fortunately, Van der Vegt is completely up to date with the latest technical advances. And if necessary, I am also supported by two experienced technicians at the importer. The support from Mechan Group has been really excellent.” •

One-man contracting company with a focus on special tasks 

Christel Thijssen is no ordinary contractor. He has only one tractor, no employees and a limited fleet of machines for a limited number of tasks. His Valtra T174 Direct is equipped with Valtra Connect, Valtra Guide and tyre pressure control to help prevent soil compaction on his customers’ fields. Cameras are mounted at the back of the cab for monitoring the implements. Thijssen specialises in precision fertiliser spreading, soil disinfection, soil preparation and tilling.

Always innovating

Thijssen tries to stand out from the competition by always being at the forefront of innovation. He was the first Dutch contractor to use drones to capture images of fields. Thijssen has also used a Veris soil scanner and Yara N-Sensor to analyse crops and control his fertiliser spreader. Thijssen is often asked by machine manufacturers to try out new equipment. He is currently testing weed electrocution and spot spray technology.

Dacom delivers precision farming solutions globally 

Dacom Farm Intelligence from Emmen has been active for over 30 years developing hardware and software solutions for farmers and agribusiness. For example, Dacom offers farmers cloud-based cultivation and irrigation management software. Dacom also develops and supplies weather stations and soil moisture sensors, as well as weather data that is sold separately. Farmlook is a tool it has developed for centrally collecting and processing plot, cultivation and weather data via the internet. Dacom is active worldwide in more than 40 countries and has more than 26,000 customers. Dacom was recently acquired by Israeli company CropX, a global leader in agricultural data analytics.

Text and photos: Koos in’t Hout