Since 1992, Farm Works Software had been developing comprehensive farm management systems, but it lacked the necessary hardware and OS support to make their applications viable: both realistically and commercially. Small, hand held units lacked the power, punch and practicality needed while high-priced laptops could not withstand the rigors of life in the field. Premier Technologies, Inc., in partnership with Farm Works Software, understood the need for an easy-to-use, precision agriculture tool that would take advantage of the latest technology. The two companies joined forces to create the joint venture, agBoss.
"(The) goal was to provide a ruggedized, hand held, touch screen computer to provide mapping and fertilizer application control operations. This unit had to be able to withstand the rigors of off-road operation in a sometimes very dusty, vibration filled environment." Said Andy Hill, President of Premier Technologies, Inc. "In addition, it had to have a wide screen viewable in bright sunlight and be powerful and fast enough to run custom designed software."
The computer terminal that Premier chose also had to be affordable and rugged enough for variable rate application as well as GPS mapping and scouting in the field. A readable display, in blinding sunlight or evening shadows, and touch sensitive screen with a user-friendly interface were among the other requirements. After researching a multitude of terminals, Premier chose TouchLite by Two Technologies, Inc., to meet their critical requirements. This rugged Windows® CE based terminal could stand up to harsh environmental factors and was also extremely cost effective. Ultimately, Premier merged FWS and TouchLite to produce AgBOSS.
"Even then it took intensive field testing, minor modifications and a strong working relationship between us and Premier to get AgBOSS into the hands of the customer," said Russ Maynard, Two Technologies, Inc.' Vice President of Technical Services. "You can do all the testing in the lab you want but you’re still never satisfied until you witness success in the real world."
Challenges are nothing new to Two Technologies, Inc. a Horsham-PA based company. Since 1987, it has been providing products for industries in need of reliable and rugged hand held solutions. The AgBOSS hand held computer allows users a fast, rugged interface to both mapping and application functions. The TouchLite/AgBOSS computer not only provides the necessary support for the application, it also withstands the demands of the farming environment such as rain, mud and other harsh elements. The large icons are easy to see and easier to use, with either bare fingers or gloved hands. The unit can be viewed in full or failing sunlight conditions.
Utilizing a reliable, integrated, non-volatile FLASH memory, the AgBOSS software is "burned" into the memory of the unit and is not dependent upon a hard drive. This ensures that the application will be available even after extended periods of power loss. Conventional solutions utilize battery backed Static Ram (SRAM) or require costly PC Card solutions to provide storage for essential applications.
Portable data storage between applications and platforms can take place because data is stored in a removable PC card. The data collected can later be transferred to a desktop PC. In addition, up to two PC Cards, Including Type III profiles may be added to AgBOSS, a feature that sets this precision farming tool apart from others. The ability to cover the PC-Cards, once installed, maintains the integrity of the AgBOSS unit’s seal.
Today, modern GPS systems are required to provide accurate mapping to determine field boundaries. Resource locations are calculated based on these FWS surveys and the necessary information is transmitted to the guidance systems mounted in the field equipment. AgBOSS provides this data to interface controllers that vary application rates of needed chemicals and fertilizers. Any data recorded by the AgBOSS software is automatically stored on the FLASH card (Included with the package). This data can be transferred to a PC using Win 95, Win 98, or NT.
For years farmers dreamed of a device that would enable them to map fields and create soil-sampling grids all from within the confines of their tractor. Now, with the union of Two Technologies, Inc.' TouchLite and Farm Works Software, it’s a reality. "The fact that AgBOSS has been out there in the fields on the tractors for several months, working in such harsh environments, and we have had no problems with any of the units, tells me that we’ve done a good job," added Maynard. "Again, there’s no test like the real world."
For more information about agBOSS, visit their website at: www.agboss.com.