Tracking Tractors: Fliegl's Beacon System Adds Visibility to Grain Movements

The German manufacturer of farm equipment has expanded its automated grain-weighing system to include beacon-based technology that ties the product to the vehicles that harvest and transport it.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jan 29, 2016

Accurately tracking the weight of grain or other crops, starting at the point of harvest, is an important business process for growers around the world. In 2011, Fliegl Agrartechnik, a German manufacturer of agricultural trailers, tanks and other agricultural logistics equipment, debuted its Fliegl Axle Weighing System (FWS), a solution that can be retrofitted into equipment from vehicles made by Fliegl or other manufacturers, in order to help grain producers automate the process.

The movement of the grain starts with a combine or other harvesting equipment. A large shoot, also known as a grain slide, extends from this in-field machine onto a transfer vehicle—a type of tractor with a very large cargo container that travels next to the combine or harvester. The FWS weighs the grain as it is loaded onto the transfer vehicle. Once its container is full, an employee drives the transfer vehicle to a roadway, where the grain slide mounted on that vehicle moves the cargo onto a transport truck that will move it off the farm. Digital scales on both the transfer vehicle and the transport truck document the load weights.

Fliegl Tracker uses Bluetooth technology to identify harvesting equipment and trucks.
Precisely measuring the harvest weight is important for a simple reason, explains Franz Höpfinger, Fliegl Agrartechnik's development manager. Producers are paid based on how much they grow. But the ability to accurately weigh what is harvested is also an important security measure, he says, because in regions of the world where workers earn very low wages but the value of grain is high, there is always the chance that some of the grain "might disappear." Therefore, Höpfinger says, "farm managers want to know how much grain came off the field, so you have to weigh it in the field."

Additionally, to comply with food-security programs that require growers to track products' movement from field to fork, producers currently need to manually document the identification number of the combine in the field from which the crop was collected, as well as the IDs of the trucks onto which the harvest is then loaded for transport off the farm.

For all of these reasons, Fliegl has developed an extension to the FWS platform, known as Fliegl Tracker, which uses Bluetooth technology to identify harvesting equipment as well as the truck. The company began developing the Tracker at the end of 2014, and expects its customers will begin deploying the solution this coming summer.

Before developing the Tracker, Höpfinger says, Fliegl conducted audits of the manual tracking system currently used, and found that around a third of the data entries made by transfer vehicle operators are incorrect. They are simple errors, such as transposed numbers, but they can cause significant problems in the tracking programs.

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