In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Another Thing I Never Thought I'd See On Farm Equipment
Jan 15, 2009
I shook my head when I first heard about farmers mounting video cameras on farm equipment so they could see behind machinery or monitor machine performance. That was several years ago, and I never thought such technology would be functional, let alone become popular.
I was wrong, wrong, wrong. A growing number of farmers around here are bolting video cameras to the rear of equipment and mounting small 3- to 5-inch video screens in the cab of their machines. They--and I--have been very impressed with the increased visibility the nifty little cameras and screens provide. Anybody who has ever crumpled the back of a combine on a cornerpost, or tried to back up one of the new monster-size self-propelled sprayers, quickly falls in love with being able to see behind those machines. Multi-row planters with big central seed boxes are much safer when transporting down the road when the operator can see on the in-cab video screen if there are any cars hiding in the planter's blind spot. Heck, one of my coworkers who drives a big service truck with an over-sized utility box mounted a camera on the rear of the truck to eliminate a dangerous blind spot that his rearview mirrors couldn't "see."
The cost of one camera and video screen is generally in the range of $150 to $350. Considering the expense of repairing a crumpled straw chopper on a combine, or a planter-automobile collision on a highway, that's pretty economical. Especially if the same system can be used on the combine in the fall, the planter in the spring, and a sprayer or baler in the summer. Once farmers get used to being able to see where they previously couldn't see, they come up with all sorts of nifty places to use the cameras. Some systems connect more than one camera to a single view-screen. I have one customer who mounts one camera on the back of his combine, and the other on top of his super-tall grain tank extension so he can monitor how full the tank is before
the "tank full" warning light comes on.. He flips a switch on the display console to select which camera is "live."
A couple considerations: Obviously, dust and dirt can be an issue: users have to regularly clean the lenses if the cameras are mounted in high-dust locations. Wireless systems are available, and nice because they eliminate the need to route wires and cables between the camera(s) and the view-screen. However--there have been instances where wireless camera systems interfered with autosteer/GPS and other high-tech in-cab gadgetry. Be cautious when mounting view-screens near GPS-related systems, because the GPS system may confuse the signals flowing between cameras and view-screens with signals from orbiting GPS satellites.