Around the turn of the 21st century, Johannes Heupel searched for a guidance system with mapping and contour capabilities, but didn't find what he wanted. So he set about developing the Windows laptop-based system he now markets as FarmerGPS from his farm near Stony Plain, Alberta.

In addition to providing lightbar guidance and a bird's-eye field map view, FarmerGPS also stores field maps and application data in the laptop's hard drive. This allows the operator to retrieve maps for use in other field operations, take notes and generate custom reports. For example, a custom applicator can export coverage area data to a spreadsheet program to create invoices while still in the field.

“Even today, most guidance systems are very limited for record keeping,” says Heupel, who notes that FarmerGPS could be used along with an automated steering system to capitalize on its mapping and record-keeping capabilities.

FarmerGPS supports importing of shape files and can export KML files for viewing in Google Earth. The software can recognize up to 10 boom sections via an interface box linked to sprayer/planter controllers, which also can be configured to automatically turn recording of field operations on and off.

The “lightbar” portion of FarmerGPS is arrayed along the bottom or top of the computer screen as a series of outlined boxes. The current position is darkened. The rest of the screen is devoted to the map view. Laptops with touch-screen capability can be configured with customizable buttons along the right side.

The list price of FarmerGPS is $349. Many customers run the software on small Windows XP-based netbook computers with 8.9-in. screens, which sell for about $400. Many netbooks have solid-state drives, which increase reliability, Heupel says.

In addition to a computer, the FarmerGPS software requires a GPS receiver and related cabling. FarmerGPS works with any GPS receiver using standard NMEA data protocols. Contact Heupel Farms, Dept. FIN, Box 2585, Stony Plain, AB T7Z 1X9, Canada, 780/990-4052, visit www.farmergps.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 107.