Hall sensors in Agrifac’s field sprayers: increasing yield farmland
The business relationship between Sentech and Agrifac dates back to the very foundation of the former. Throughout the years, Sentech has developed into an Agrifac R&D partner in the area of sensor technology applied in its high-end agricultural machinery: field sprayers and beet harvesters.
Sentech endeavors to develop functional innovations applicable to Agrifac machinery. And this has already resulted in several successful sensor solutions, which enable farmers worldwide to cultivate their land more efficiently.
Agrifac is devoted to reducing the ecological footprint of the global population
Agrifac and Sentech are an excellent match for one another. Both firms are pioneers, aiming to offer their customers a combination of top quality, added value and innovation. Agrifac CTO, Martijn van Alphen, explains: “Agrifac is keen to assist its customers, farmers and contractors alike in achieving higher yields from arable land, by supplying innovative agricultural sprayers and beet harvesters.”
Agrifac is highly conscious of the expanding ecological footprint of the ever-increasing global population. “We are eager to assist in reducing this footprint. And while the technological resources are readily available, we have nevertheless witnessed that crop yields continue to lag well behind those which are actually possible nowadays. In supplying innovative field sprayers, we offer the technological opportunity to achieve higher yields while applying reduced quantities of crop protection.”
The field sprayers are developed according to the ‘four Es for growers’ principle, whereby efficiency, economy, ergonomics and ecology play decisive roles in our development processes. “We have therefore acquired a global lead in the field of innovation and technology. And this enables us to both contribute to the further sustainability of agriculture and assist farmers in continuing to meet the increasing demand for food.”
Agrifac field sprayers – innovation comprising Sentech sensor technology
This firm, which is based in the Dutch town of Steenwijk, develops and manufactures a wide range of high-end field sprayers for farmers and contractors throughout Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. The quality and reliability of all the components of this machinery is absolutely crucial.
Mr. Van Alphen, explains the vital role that sensor technology plays in the firm’s agricultural sprayers: “Until we became acquainted with Sentech, we used the standard sensors supplied by Honeywell for various functions.”
It was Rob Pieters, Account Manager at Sentech, who actually got in touch with Agrifac for the first time some 13 years ago. This proved to be the start of a fruitful partnership, which produced several concrete sensor solutions for agricultural sprayers.
Mr. Van Alphen: “However, projects are currently being executed in cooperation with Sentech, with a view to lending our sprayers new functionalities in the form of innovative sensor technology.” Sentech therefore greatly contributes to the innovations introduced in Agrifac’s field sprayers.
Sentech sensors in production – low-pressure sensor and Hall sensor
The firm currently supplies agricultural sprayers with two types of sensor assemblies. Mr. Van Alphen: “We use a low-pressure sensor which gauges the level in the fresh water tank; a sensor which we are also considering fitting in the fuel tank.”
Mr. Pieters adds: “This is simply an off-the-shelf assembly comprising a sensor and housing. Our motto in this case was: why make things more difficult than they need to be? If standard sensor products suffice, then use them.”
The angle sensor on the agricultural sprayer’s folding arm, however, was a different story entirely. Mr. Van Alphen: “We were eager to fully automate the extension and retraction of the arm. And extension also had to be speeded up considerably. This called for replacement of the angle sensor which monitors arm extension. The process of sensor development on the basis of Hall sensor technology has been almost completed in the meantime, and is becoming an ex-works option for Agrifac.”
Mr. Pieters indicates that this is a special case: “While development indeed proceeded favorably, it nevertheless took two years before the first machine was actually equipped with the sensor. This was not due to the number of hours involved.”
Mr. Van Alphen: “It was simply a protracted process to carry out assessment and practical tests to establish whether Sentech’s concept was feasible. Several years down the line, it has proven a highly favorable solution.”
Sentech adopted a proactive approach to the problem that a loose angle sensor or other problems involving the arm could not be detected.
Mr. Van Alphen: “The challenge was to come up with a sensor capable of identifying a malfunction in the arm. Together with the accelerated extension of the arm, you want to make sure that everything works properly. The Hall sensor, which is responsible for timely detection of problems, prevents any (further) damage to the arm during extension. The sensor solution developed by Sentech has rendered the entire functionality of the agricultural sprayer more reliable.”
Sentech unique in the Netherlands and Europe – customer interests the center of attention
When asked how he viewed Sentech’s position, Mr. Van Alphen said: “Sentech is an R&D partner in the field of sensor technology. This makes it absolutely unique in the Netherlands and Europe alike! We are currently cooperating in the development of various promising new sensor technologies, which we are keen to integrate in our agricultural sprayers in the future.”
Joint innovation with Sentech is highly satisfactory according the cto. “We are both gaining new insight and discovering possibilities that we would never have thought of on our own. Sentech is helping us to achieve our mission.”
Mr. Pieters responded as follows: “It is nice to hear someone else confirm this. I often make the comparison between us and our rivals. While Sentech is truly pioneering in a great many areas, we don’t like to blow our own trumpet. That would sound arrogant, even though it is basically true. The vast majority of sensor suppliers stick rigidly to their own range; we’ve got this, or might that work?”
Sentech in stark contrast focuses on the customer’s metering and control requirements, in seeking or otherwise developing the ideal sensor solution. “We have no interest in quantity in this regard. Sentech’s added value lies in the addition of sensor knowledge and technology to machinery, vehicles and systems; additions that improve a product and make it more reliable.”
Sentech proactively seeks solutions and opportunities to make improvements. “We neither trade in standard sensors nor compete on the basis of price; our aim is to provide added value. It makes no difference to us whether a customer wants to purchase a hundred or a thousand units; everyone receives the same level of service and commitment”, says Mr. Pieters.
Each customer’s interests are equally important. And the fact that these interests are not of a purely financial nature is witnessed by our cooperation with Agrifac. It is pleasing to be able to contribute to innovations in the agricultural sector, as well as a solution for the increasing demand for food.”
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