FieldBEE tests. Tractor guidance in Finland

FieldBEE RTK GPS tractor guidance system

Customer profile


Name: Markus Turja
Part-time farmer
Land – 45 ha
Hobby: eFarmer
eFarmer user since: April 2015
Name: Hannu Huhta
Full time farmer
Land – 100 ha
Hobby: interested in aeroplanes and eFarmer
eFarmer user since: June 2015
Name: Heikki Kinnunen
Dairy farmer
Land – 155 ha
Dairy cows
Hobby: hunting
eFarmer user since: July 2015

Dear friends, this story is a part of the sequence about the first field tests of FieldBEE – the affordable tractor guidance system with RTK accuracy. In previous articles, we have shared with you the results of the tests of our tractor navigation system in Germany and in Belgium with free correction signal FLEPOS.

This story is about our trip to Finland. Why Finland? During our pre-order campaign, we got a lot of orders from Finland and other Scandinavian countries. We were very curious to find out what was the reason behind such interest.

So this time there was me and our senior android developer Olexiy. We got a short and pleasant flight to Helsinki airport, rented a small car and went on a drive. During 6 days we had to visit three farmers in different parts of the Finland, meet with plastic enclosure manufacturer, visit the Embassy of the Netherlands in Helsinki and participate at the midsummer festival.

Meeting with Markus and Hannu

The road trip was amazing. The views, the forest, the wild nature of Finland are breathtaking. During the trip, we realised that the sun was not going down for a long time and that this was the period of polar summer.

We were excited to meet with the two farmers who trusted us and supported our crowdfunding campaign for first low-cost tractor navigation system with RTK accuracy.

They live in Lapua. Markus Turja is the farmer who invited us to test the FieldBEE tractor navigation system with RTK accuracy. He is a part time farmer and IT director of a large manufacturing company. We got used that our first customers are the sort of people who very interested in the new technologies and are little bit IT geeks themselves. We are glad to win the support of the technology oriented farmers! The next step is to make out tractor GPS system FieldBEE reliable and easy to use for every farmer out there.

Markus and Hannu subscribed to our agricultural software before we introduced FieldBEE. They continued to support us by pre-ordering together two FieldBEEs and one RTK Bee station to share.

Field tests 1

The two farmers’ fields are scattered around with the radius of 16 km and the fields are surrounded by dense pine and birch tree forest. Therefore our test was to obtain RTK fix on these fields.

Installation

The configuration took some time. The good news that you will have to do it only once. Olexiy has created a special configuration app – FieldBEE app to make it simple.

How to install the RTK BEE Station

We have found a spot on a flat surface and clear view of the sky. It was far away from objects that cause electromagnetic interference – power generators, radio antennas, etc. We shared Wi-Fi access to the base station. It is important to have a good Wi-Fi router so you will get good Internet for the base station. During the first test, the signal strength was not enough (the router was far away). Luckily Markus was able to get a better router which we installed closer to the base station. After that, we didn’t have any issues with the Internet connection. Mobile 4G network coverage worked also perfectly.

How to install the FieldBEE

FieldBEE uses the WiFi hotspot and Bluetooth to connect to the smartphone and tablet. The settings can be easily configured in the FieldBEE app.

We have installed RTK BEE station on the barn roof and put 2 FieldBEE rovers on the cars. We were driving from field to field, making stops to test RTK quality on them. The antennae worked perfectly. We had about 2 cm accuracy in all the fields. The maximum distance to the RTK BEE station was up to unbelievable 16 km. We haven’t seen stable RTK on such a distance before. Also, we were happy to see FieldBEE working perfectly under high voltage power lines and under the trees.

After successful tests of our tractor navigation system, we were very touched that guys have offered us lunch. In return, we have invited them for a dinner. Hannu was busy, so he could not join us for dinner but nevertheless drove his tractor to the restaurant to shake our hands and say goodbyes. The next morning we got up early as we had a long journey – Lapua -> Rusko -> Helsinki -> Niinilahti.

In Rusko, we talked with a potential manufacturer of the enclosures for the FieldBEE, although the services of this company are too expensive they gave us important tips.

In Helsinki, we have met with the Dutch Embassy, who helped us to get important data and tips on the Finish agriculture market.

Meeting with Heikki

Heikki is running a picturesque farm in Niinilahti. He has recently bought it out from his father. Now he runs the farm of 155 hectares together with his wife.

Heikki learned about the pre-order campaign for FieldBEE and shared our post in the Facebook group for farmers that count more than 9000 members. This is probably one of the reasons we have so many orders in Finland.

Field tests 2 of RTK tractor navigation system FieldBREE

Heikki has several tractors, his New Holland T6020 was used for the testing of our tractor RTK GPS navigation system. We installed FieldBEE on the tractor roof using a metal plate. And we installed RTK BEE Station on the house’s roof.

After the installation, we almost instantly got RTK accuracy. But, unfortunately, when we got to the field it was not stable. We had to return to the farm to search for the possible problems and solutions. Olexiy has noticed that some satellites were constantly disappearing and appearing again. It meant that installation place for the RTK base station was not good enough.
Therefore perfect installation place should not only meet the previous criteria such as flat surface, clear view of the sky, no electromagnetic interference. But also should have a best possible coverage by satellites. You can check it with the help of our FieldBEE app.

We couldn’t find a better place on the roofs so we decided to install the RTK base station on the tripod in the middle of the farm. We even tightened it to the metal construction, securing from the strong wind. From this moment RTK base station satellite view was stable and we were ready to return to the fields. Changing base station position worked. We were able to perform tractor parallel driving with stable RTK signal, the system worked perfectly. It showed 2 and less cm of accuracy, the distance to the RTK BEE station was 2-6 km.

It was definitely a WOW moment when farmers saw that our antenna works and shows RTK accuracy. We were very happy with such results.

We ended our trip celebrating Midsummer in beautiful Helsinki.

Farming in Finland

We were curious to find out that farming season in Finland lasts 180 days as the polar day. And that farmers unite in very active societies of 50-100 farmers to share best practices, collaborate with each other, get help and support.

It was interesting to see the fields in Finland. They are surrounded by forests and has a lot of obstacles like tree roots, stones and other. Here will be very handy the new functionality of our precision app eFarmer – “route optimisation”, that we have in our pipeline. This functionality will take into account the field shapes and obstacles and will calculate the most efficient route for field operations. But this is our future plans.

What we have learned from our customers testing FieldBEE

Every time we talk to customers and do a test of our products, we got a lot of insights and ideas for improvement:

  • We saw that stability of our farm application eFarmer is one of the most important things. And this is the main focus for our development team this year, as the number of customers grows the demands for the stability of the app increase as well.
  • Several RTK BEE Stations can create the network which can be used by all farmers. This makes RTK system from eFarmer even more affordable.
  • Route optimisation is something that Finnish farmers are looking for and auto steer is the next step for all our customers, who pre-ordered FieldBEE.

We had a very good trip. FieldBEE worked perfectly, eFarmer customers were happy with the product. We saw that there is a big interest to our product in Finland. That seems like a lot of opportunities for the FieldBEE and eFarmer.


michael_photo_avatar

Kind regards,

Michael Utkin

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