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Editor's Note: Alan Townsend is the vice president and general manager of Trimble's Field Solutions Division, which is responsible for the Mapping and GIS business and Agriculture business. Townsend is a resident of Christchurch, New Zealand, where Trimble operates a product development subsidiary.

AM: What new applications are being introduced into the agriculture market?

Vehicle guidance holds the most promise for new applications in agriculture, in particular assisted or auto-steering systems. These systems can provide many benefits, which ultimately have the potential to revolutionize and change farming practices.

By automating many processes that have been executed manually, agribusinesses can gain an edge in today's competitive marketplace. We believe that there are five key advantages for using automated or autosteer technology for vehicle guidance: productivity; efficiency; repeatable, reliable precision; reduced driver fatigue; and the bottom line.

AM: What are the keys to successfully marketing these new products and technologies?

AT: The key to successfully marketing new products, applications or technology is clearly understanding the needs of the farmer or service provider. Second, the product or technology should demonstrate a significant return on investment. If you look at today's competitive global markets, it is critical for the grower to produce higher quality food faster and cheaper. Technologies that can easily demonstrate increased operational efficiency or crop productivity and savings on inputs and labor will be successful.

AM: What partnerships has Trimble's Ag Business formed to take its technology one step further?

AT: Spraying Systems Co. and Trimble have developed a GPS-based assisted steering for agriculture application control systems. The system automatically guides sprayers, spreaders and combines while self-regulating the application of fertilizers and crop protection products or harvesting crops to increase efficiency. Other key partners include Ag Leader Technologies, Case IH and New Holland (CNH Global), which have been promoting and selling Trimble manual guidance systems for many years.

AM: How do you feel the adoption rate of GPS technology is going? How might it improve?

AT: GPS has been an integral part of farming for more than 10 years. The first GPS applications included field mapping, yield monitoring, soil sampling and aerial guidance for spraying. As the applications and use of GPS technology have evolved into new applications, the adoption rate has progressed rapidly as the ROI is easily demonstrated. Understanding and acceptance of the "high-tech farm" concept has grown. Excellent examples include the early adoption of both manual and automated guidance systems.

In addition, as more major agricultural OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) begin to endorse the technology, we believe that we will see an accelerated pace of customer awareness, education and ultimately, an increase in adoption rates.

AM: What are some of the other benefits that Trimble technology provides to the environment?

AT: The ability to precisely manage operations in agriculture means inputs are reduced and you only apply what you need, exactly where the crop or plant needs it. This translates to lower chemical and fertilizer inputs on the farm, not only saving money but also reducing runoff into groundwater and waterways. It allows conservation tillage practices to be more easily and successfully carried out - such as strip tilling where fertilizer is placed below ground surface in a narrow band and then later the seeds are planted directly on top of these bands. Conservation tillage saves fuel and builds soil health for future crops by increasing organic matter left in the field to act as a mulch, which reduces crop water requirements and reduces soil erosion losses. Trimble technology plays a key role in advancing on-farm productivity, while empowering growers to more easily meet environmental goals. AM

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