An entrepreneur with a background in engine electronics for Top Fuel dragsters has returned to his farming roots. Toby Graham developed an electric-drive system that converts ground-driven planters into by-the-row variable-rate seeders with built-in row shut-off capability. He developed it while trying to upgrade his father’s Monosem twin-row planter for variable-rate seeding. Graham started selling the system in 2011 near Wray, Colo., and expanded into the Corn Belt last year.

Now, he’s updating the system with an optional tablet-based controller. “Standard rate controllers can’t take advantage of all the capabilities of this system,” says Graham, who is collaborating with Harrison Ag Technologies on the new Graham Command controller. The controller, which runs on an Android tablet computer, is capable of by-the-row prescription planting.

Electric-drive basics The Graham system uses direct-current brush motors that draw an average of 3 amps to drive each row unit. Depending on the planter, motors are directly mounted to the seed plate, or mounted remotely with a chain drive to the seed plate.

Modular drive kits, which are available for any planter make or model, include four motors, plus a planter-mounted control board and a weatherproof harness using Deutsch connectors and housing. An additional component includes an in-cab interface box that communicates wirelessly with on-planter control boards.

On planters up to 16 rows, a tractor’s alternator typically has the capacity to power the row motors. On larger planters, Graham offers a planter-mounted hydraulic auxiliary alternator.

Advantages, pricing Individual electric drives eliminate chains and sprockets associated with mechanical and hydraulic drives. Response time — a fifth of a second — is quicker than is possible with hydraulic drives, Graham says.

The suggested retail price for a 12-row planter conversion is $13,866, including row units, a standard touch-screen monitor and installation. A 24-row planter conversion with an auxiliary hydraulic alternator is $28,124. Call 303/885-7428, or visit

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