Imagine waking up one morning to find the tractor you’d parked by the edge of your field was gone, leaving only frustration and an unbroken view of the crop that still needs to come off. What if you could pull out your phone, and look up exactly where your tractor was?
The technology is out there. The same GPS devices that let you maximize your efficiency on the farm when it comes to planting and fertilizing can keep an eye on your machinery for you.
GPS Ontario’s Jordan Wallace told Farmers Forum that the systems his company provides will work as long as you get internet service in your area. You can look up where a machine is at any time. The devices can also set up “geofences” to fence in your equipment. If a machine crosses the imaginary fenceline, you get sent an alert telling you that your machine is on the move, where it is and if the motor is running.
Dedicated anti-theft and vehicle tracking options are out there as well. GPS Canada offers devices that run in the $200 to $300 range, some of which are designed to avoid being spotted and pried out by a clever thief. Those devices require service plans at about $20 a month.
But for the farmer loath to spend money to protect his equipment, there are methods available that cost very little. Peter Gredig, a cash crop farmer at St. Thomas and co-founder of AgNition, a farm technology company, told Farmers Forum that there are plenty of apps out there. Some apps, designed for parents to keep an eye on a teenager borrowing the car, can also work for agriculture.
All they need is a way for a smartphone to communicate with a tractor or combine. That’s easily accomplished by picking up a “dongle,” a small piece of tech that broadcasts a signal that your phone can pick up and costs less than $50.
Most apps are free, and the devices don’t require monthly fees to run, though some will have pay options if you want more features, Gredig said.