One of the most rewarding parts of the Internet of Things for us is to bring the power of communications, efficiency and productivity to our customer base.
Topcon Precision Agriculture
Topcon Precision Agriculture
Topcon packages products with services using IoT to transform offerings
Connected devices are becoming increasingly important on the farm, giving farmers the data necessary to track productivity of their equipment, review operator performance and manage fleets of agricultural machinery. Topcon works directly with farmers to give them the metrics needed to increase efficiency in the field. The company also engages with agricultural equipment manufacturers, embedding telematics systems into vehicle platforms, giving operators access to data related to their vehicles’ performance and productivity.
With Cisco Jasper, Topcon packages its solutions with the full array of services, helping farmers get the maximum performance from their equipment, reduce operating costs and secure their resources and assets.
Topcon Precision Agriculture uses IoT to Help Growers Optimize Operations
Despite being one of the world’s oldest industries, agriculture is rapidly embracing the innovations of IoT as an enabler for automation and process control. Bigger and stronger machines with GPS-based autonomous steering are replacing smaller, less efficient implements, and sophisticated precision equipment sensors relay information to help increase farms’ productivity, reduce operating costs and secure assets.
Topcon Positioning Systems provides positioning technologies that serve a variety of industries, including farmers, surveyors, civil engineers and construction companies. Its agricultural business unit focuses primarily on applying innovative GNSS and satellite-based telematics solutions to solve field-specific problems.
“Agriculture and growing crops is a very difficult business because farmers are fighting the weather,” explains Michael Gomes, Vice President of Business Development at Topcon Precision Agriculture, the agricultural business unit at Topcon. “Farmers need to react to challenges very quickly, and they do it best when they have good communication and feedback.”
Connected devices are becoming increasingly important on the farm, especially during peak times when equipment must work around the clock and achieving maximum productivity is crucial.
“Communication between tractors, implements and other machines is becoming the driver of metrics and efficiency in the field,” explains Gomes. Using the instantaneous information available to them, farmers can compare the productivity of different pieces of equipment, review operators’ performance, measure efficiency for the amount of input, and manage their fleets of agricultural machinery.
Topcon has been using the Cisco Jasper platform since 2009.
“Control Center has enabled us to provide telematics solutions—everything from basic fleet management and logging, all the way up to dashboarding, operator qualifications and metrics, quality metrics, as well as process improvement,” says Gomes.
He recalls that originally Topcon didn’t consider itself a service company, but over time the company’s management came to realize that product focus alone wasn’t going to ensure Topcon’s success in the competitive market. “You need products packaged with the service to help customers use the products more effectively,” Gomes explains.
In addition to working with farmers, Topcon engages directly with agricultural equipment manufacturers, embedding telematics systems into vehicle platforms and giving operators access to specialized metrics related to their vehicles’ performance and productivity.
“It has become a multi-tiered business,” adds Gomes. “The information has value to both the end user and the local service provider or distributor who services and supports the equipment. It also has value to the original equipment manufacturer.”
An example of such a multi-tiered value chain is Tierra—a designer of tailored telematics solutions and a joint venture between Topcon Positioning Systems and Divitech.
“We have a telematics device embedded in a product, which sells in 194 countries worldwide,” explains Fabio Isaia, CEO of Tierra. “IoT has brought life to many devices on vehicles that we are tracking. It allows the connection of many different elements, bringing more and more information, which opens up new business opportunities.”
Isaia stresses the value of automation in Control Center for Tierra’s operations: “It allows us to control connected devices on the cellular network everywhere in the world.” Isaia emphasizes that for Tierra working with IoT is primarily about providing valuable, actionable data for the customer.
“IoT brings information,” he says. “One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is to be able to harness this information and tailor a service for a customer that gives them access to the data they never even knew they needed, and then use this data to help generate more profit for their business.”
Gomes credits automation and Control Center with helping streamline Topcon’s operations and create additional value for the customer. He describes running Topcon before Control Center as living in the analog world:
“It was a lot of point-to-point communication and things were quite a bit more manual. With Control Center, we’ve likened it to the digital world. We have a lot more interconnectivity, and more importantly, we have the ability to both measure and manage productivity of the assets. It’s been truly enabling to us to deliver value to our customer base.”
Delivering better communication, efficiencies and productivity to farmers around the world
Topcon is rapidly expanding into developing markets, bringing critical positioning technology to vast mega-farms that operate large equipment fleets. The company relies on Control Center to get information from multiple vehicle platforms to measure the effectiveness of equipment in the field.
Having precise data about every piece of machinery and being able to measure the return on all inputs and resources used on the farm is helping farm operators around the world see the advantages of IoT and positioning technologies, driving adoption and contributing to Topcon’s success in new markets.
“One of the most rewarding parts of the Internet of Things for us is really bringing the power of communications, efficiency and productivity to our customer base,” concludes Gomes. “Farmers are the people who fight the weather for a living; and when we can solve real problems and help them become more effective in managing assets, as well as more productive with those assets and resources, that affects their profitability. And in doing so, it helps grow their business.”
Gomes believes that the industry is only just beginning to understand how to unlock the synergy from parts of complex systems like agriculture and biology through connecting and leveraging them against one another. He views IoT as a discipline still in its infancy, but one that’s poised for tremendous success as the agricultural industry continues to go through transformational changes.
“Agriculture is just beginning to see the value in the Internet of Things. The idea that equipment and implements are becoming sophisticated, have sensors and can talk to one another is still rather new,” he says.
Gomes believes that the biggest driver for the growth of IoT in agriculture is going to be consumer awareness and desire to know more about the origins of their food, fuel and fibers. As consumers demand more information about where their food and goods come from and whether they’re produced in a sustainable way, the agricultural industry will increasingly rely on IoT to showcase the most efficient use of resources.
“Agriculture is a complex business,” Gomes says in conclusion. “It’s complex because it involves biological systems. We’ve been provided with a number of resources, and so increasingly it’s not just about productivity, but also about sustainability—being able to show consumers that we can produce the food they need in a way that benefits our society today and tomorrow.”