Hesston by Massy Ferguson, an industry-leading haying equipment brand from AGCO, recently introduced the Bale Link app, a revolutionary new virtual application, which allows producers to track large square bales from the field to the stack and beyond.
The app works in conjunction with a computer sending unit that is attached to the baler. Microscopic RFID chips are imbedded into the baling twine at the manufacturer and a roll of the specialized twine is placed on each side of the baler in the appropriate location. One string, out of the six normally on large square bales, will have one of the RFID chips.
“Each chip has a unique identification code that is registered with the baler. As the bale is coming through, the bale weight, number of flakes and location of where it is dropped will be recorded against that serial number on the chip and sent to the cloud,” explained Matt LeCroy, product marketing manager for hay harvesting at AGCO.
In addition to bale location, weight and number of flakes, the baler can also register the amount of preservative applied to the bale. This is extremely useful for those who may use inoculants on their hay crop.
Once the bales are laying in the field, producers can come along with a bale stacker-mounted, loader-mounted or hand-held scanner and scan the bale or groups of bales. The information is stored on the cloud and the scanner is tied to the producer’s smart phone. This means the scanned data will be directly sent from the cloud and displayed on the phone. There is no sending unit on the chips, so a producer must scan the bales every time they change location. The act of scanning will update the geo-location data to the associated serial number.
The application’s limitations come only from distance, and not from volume. The scanner is set up to read any and all bales within Bluetooth range. The Bluetooth scanner creates an umbrella over an area, however the RFID antenna range is limited to about 8’ in a field application.
“The scanner pretty much puts a 30-foot umbrella over the area wherever the Bluetooth capability is,” LeCroy said.
Currently, this technology is available via limited release because the only AGCO baler that has the appropriate electronic architecture is the 2370 ultra-high density model. LeCroy says the baler isn’t for everyone as it is used primarily for commercial baling of corn stalks and wheat straw. The ultra-high density capability is not normally required for baling alfalfa and grass hay. By August of 2022, however, all AGCO balers for that model year will be capable of supporting this technology.
“Full usage and full availability will be for the season of 2023,” LeCroy stated.
As of now, the app is only available through Android, but at the full release it will be compatible with IOS, as well.
Balers with the required electronics will still have to be mounted with the telemetry system, which is a separate unit, but installation is not complicated. The computer requires very little service so as long as a txt message can be sent, there needs to be enough cellular signal for the computer to upload the data to the Cloud. If absolutely no service is available, the data will upload once the device enters service range.
LeCroy further emphasized, even though these RFID chips are small, producers really should avoid allowing cows to consume the chips found in the baling twine, as well as the non-biodegradable antenna.
As it stands now, the Bale Link app is cutting edge and completely revolutionary, but LeCroy says it is merely the beginning for this technology. The hope is, in the near future, this technology will also be able to record even more data, such as bale moisture and feed value.