Frequently asked questions about my Planter Apps    

I was receiving 1 - 2 inquiries per day when I put an add on Craigslist last year. Many want to know the same kind of information. So here's some of the frequently asked questions:

How many farmers are going to get to test my monitor?
It's not available because of patents held by others.

What benefit is my monitor?
Potential 1st year payback: According to two of the large companies that have studied this, if you can improve your performance by 1%, you can improve your yield by 3 bushel / acre. So it isn't just a matter of being able to see how your planter is performing, the key is to use what you see to make improvements. For the most gain, you need to find out how well your seed meters are performing before Spring and see if you need replacements. Then be able to change things like adjust the brushes on precision units while you are planting. Then of course, if you see problems on a particular row, stop and tinker with it until it works as good as you can get it to work. I've read stories of stuff being in the bottom of the seed meter causing skips. Also, belt and seed tube problems. A chain with a tight link will throw off the performance. When I first started tinkering with this, my performance on my meters was in the 8.5 - 8.9 (out 0f 10) range (85 - 89% singulation). I now expect my meters to run in the 9.0-9.5 range. (Update February 2016: Because of changes I now expect 9.8 to 9.9) I've got an old one at home that was converted to precision parts that won't run better than 7.5 - 8.0 (my newer meters of the same brand runs high 9's). From last year, I also know that if my planter is erratic, to check my drive chain tensions. I'm running insecticide boxes as well and the chain drives are a source of performance problems as well. If a row is showing gaps and doubles, you can see it and stop and work on it.

What is performance?
How well the planter is putting out one seed at a time. Performance on my monitor is on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being best. So a 10 means the planter is not skipping any seeds or doubling up any. The monitor displays the number of gaps where seeds are skipped and likewise on doubles.

What are the green, yellow, and purple boxes behind the planter at the bottom of my app?
The main display at the bottom shows what's happening by row. Each block is about 1/2 second of information. About 6 seeds drop in that 1/2 second. A green box indicates no problems. If the block is colored yellow, then a gap happened on that row during the 1/2 second period. If purple, then a double. The blocks right behind the planter image just happened, the next ones back were the previous 1/2 second, etc. So you get a picture of what's been happening row by row for about 30 seconds or so.

Which app am I offering?
The basic app, not the advanced one with mapping. Download the demos from Google Play.

What can I expect from my planter?
An additional thing that I found was that older original JD finger meters don't seem to work well with large flat seed but work best with medium round (performance in the 7.0-8.0 range with large flats vs. 8.5 to low 9's with medium round). I haven't seen any JD meters with adjustable brushes either. Precision meters with the adjustable brushes make a big difference. Mine can perform in the 9.6 to 9.9 range and run at a perfect 10 for several seconds with medium round, 8.5 to maybe 9.2 with large flats. You need to be able to see what's happening to adjust the brushes. The first year I ran this, I got on and off the tractor maybe 25 times adjusting brushes and looking at things. From my testing, I believe the Precision meters have a first year payback (around $90 used). I do have a test stand at home that I built that tests my meters. I would suggest you have at least one of your meters tested and compare it to one that someone says is good. See the web page video under Planting.

What is needed for hardware or equipment?
My planter monitor uses a control box to steal the signal coming from the planter's seed sensors and going to my old monitor. The control box hooks into my existing wiring harness with no changes. An Android device receives information from my control box via a bluetooth connection with no wires. The Android device runs an App that I wrote. I can use my cell phone or tablet. I have run my app on a Samsung Note 3 cell phone, a 7" tablet, and a 10" tablet. I happen to prefer the 7" tablet. Running the app on my phone is a bit erratic because incoming phone calls and other notices interrupt the program. I've mounted the tablet in my tractor cab with a RAM (brand name) mount. Running my Apps with the display going continuously will run the Android battery down in around 3 hours so a charger cord hooked to an inexpensive USB converter in a cigarette lighter jack is needed.

Again, the way I designed my planter monitor, I did not need to make any changes to my planter or present monitor.

February 2016 update: I no longer use my old JD monitor. I just use the new one with a tablet. The old monitor is no longer needed.

Planter Differences:
Currently I have seen only two types of connectors on the planter harness, a round 37 pin connector and a rectangular connector with 10 flat spade connections. My JD 7000 has the round connector. A 12 row Kinze planter that I've experimented with had 2 of the rectangular connectors.

Is an old monitor required?
Yes and no., Operation without the old monitor required a power supply hooked to my control box to power the row sensors. I added power for the row sensors inside my control box.

Would my monitor work for more than 8 rows?
I built a 16 row version and had a farmer test it. More than 16 rows? Possibly but it would require a 3rd type of circuit board. If a farmer has more than 16 rows, I'm guessing he already has one of the big company's monitors. I don't have any current plans to try this.

How does it get tractor speed? or was radar needed?
Tractor speed is displayed from the GPS built into all Android tablets and also from calculations based on how fast the seed is coming out. I've gotten a few inquiries about the accuracy of the speed. Looking at the speed from the GPS and from the calculation based on the seed coming out: the two speeds look fairly close together. So I assume they are pretty accurate. Here's an explanation of the calculated speed. Imagine you knew exactly how fast you were driving. Knowing that and the width of your planter you can imagine that with a bit of math you could figure out how many acres per hour you are planting. And because of the settings on the planter for seeds per acre, you could then figure out how many seeds you are planting per hour. So doing that in reverse, if I count how many seeds I plant in a period of time, I can compute how fast I am going. When I am planting about 17 seeds per second for 8 rows and counting for 5 seconds, there's around 680 seeds (at 5 mph). If my seed count is high or low, then I can just do the math to estimate the speed. Because I am looking at the time interval between each seed on each row, I can adjust my seed count for skips and doubles to make the speed calculation that much more accurate.

Does the monitor work with old row sensors?
Yes, on my planter I have a mixture of old red LED sensors, newer clear light sensors, and two new high speed JD sensors from last year. However, the old red LED sensors cannot detect doubles or multiple seeds nearly as well as the newer ones. The high speed sensors are much better. On my test stand I can count bean seeds pretty accurately with the high speed sensors. That's about 85 seeds per second if I did the math correctly in my head just now. I have not experimented with the "wave" sensors.