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Published September 16, 2013, 09:40 AM

Sound power

In agriculture, a new idea can take a few years to catch on, so the Fargo, N.D.-based makers of a new wireless blockage and flow monitor for air seeding implements say they’re pleased about the adoption of their idea, having already been on the market for three years.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

WEST FARGO, N.D. — In agriculture, a new idea can take a few years to catch on, so the Fargo, N.D.-based makers of a new wireless blockage and flow monitor for air seeding implements say they’re pleased about the adoption of their idea, having already been on the market for three years.

Intelligent Agricultural Solutions was promoting one of those ideas at Big Iron in West Fargo, N.D., Sept. 10 to 12. IAS is a joint venture of Appareo Systems LLC and Amity Technology LLC of Fargo.

IAS’s product is an acoustic-based system that monitors every opener on an implement and uses the Apple iPad to display blockages or reduced flow. Amity implements have used the patented system exclusively since 2012.

The IAS system acts much like a medical stethoscope. Seed or fertilizer passes through the system in a stream that will hit a metal membrane, creating a sound that is transmitted through a hollow “sound tube.” The sound is fed into a box on each manifold that turns an analog signal to a digital signal, to be read and transmitted — wirelessly — to the cab.

“You don’t need cellular data or coverage,” says Bobby Volesky, sales manager for the product. “Then we display it on an iPad, a very user-friendly device that many people already have. You just download a simple app that displays it.”

The biggest question farmers had at the show about the device was, “Does it work?” Volesky says. “It’s sort of the same question with everything. You wonder about the angle the sensor takes. But we need that because we need to capture as much sound as we can.”

The companies chose steel for the membrane to make a sound signal that can be distinguished from other ambient tractor and machine noise for the proper sponginess or flexibility.

Now they’re ready

More farmers are using iPads because their younger generations or spouses use them. At this point, farmers are becoming more familiar with the tablets. Volesky says the product is available for only iPads, which means the company only has to support one operating system.

Before this year, farmers were telling company representatives they were going to let early adapters try the devices before putting their money down.

One “headwind” the company is working against is that, in general, blockage monitors haven’t worked as well as farmers expect.

“We have a system that does work well, but I think folks are waiting for someone else to say, ‘Yup, this is real; this works,’” says Jeff Johnson, vice president of business development for IAS.

David Batcheller, president and chief operating officer of Appareo Systems, says Appareo and Amity found that most of the issues with the product involved wiring failures on the electrical after-market monitors.

Batcheller says the application costs vary, but customers are typically told to budget around $100 per run that needs to be monitored. A 64-run, 50-foot drill would be roughly a $6,400 system.

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