In January at their annual meeting, Trimble executives addressed 450 dealer and resellers of its agricultural product line up from 20 countries. The company reflected upon the past year of success within its ag division and recognized the potential challenges of the year ahead.
"One year ago, we predicted 2008 would bring the perfect swarm of customers to your business, and it came like a Texas tornado on a Saturday night,” said George Huber, director of Trimble global ag sales. "The Trimble ag team has had by far its best year ever.”
With the Trimble lineup of precision ag equipment and guidance technology growing, the company officials said they are looking to provide solutions across all seasons and the entire farming cycle. In the past, the company had allocated at least 10% of its annual earnings to research and development expenses, which recently totaled $100 million yearly. With slips in the construction industry, Trimble is looking to rely on the ag industry for good news.
"In the fourth quarter, the outside world had come into Trimble,” said Steve Berglund, CEO, on the timing of Trimble feeling the aftershocks of the economic slowdown. But he noted that Trimble's ag division can be attributed with keeping the company out of the negative numbers until the fourth quarter. "Ag offset all the other difference until construction really fell in Q4,” Berglund said.
Trimble made two significant acquisitions in its ag business division in the final quarter of 2008 when it purchased Tru Count Inc. and Rawson Control Systems. Due to the acquisitions, pre-exisiting dealers of both companies have access to Trimble products.
At the event, Trimble unveiled products ranging from an integrated display to updated receivers.
The FmX display is an integrated display featuring two built-in GPS and GLONASS receivers. It supports Autopilot, EZ-Steer, FieldLevel II capability, TrueTracker active implement steering, EZ-Boom, and Tru Application Control systems. For RTK applications, a radio is integrated and ready to unlock when needed. The color touch-screen measures 12.1" and can display video from up to four camera inputs.
For single-product variable-rate control, the EZ-Guide 500 can be updated with the capability for a one-time fee. When it is added to the lightbar guidance system, prescription maps can be loaded into the system using the standard SHP file format. The EZ-Guide 500 also has free firmware upgrades including the FieldFinder function for easier recall of field maps and a night view option.
The 162 and 262 GPS receivers offer two levels of accuracy. The AgGPS 162 receiver is a GPS L1 smart antenna (receiver and antenna in one) that receives SBAS corrections. The AgGPS 262 features a dual-frequency L1/L2/L-band receiver. The 262 receiver can be outfitted with RTK, OmniStar HP, OmniStar VBS or SBAS corrections.
This spring, Trimble will add new functionality to EZ-Office software.
Navigating the environment ahead, Huber is somewhat cautious about 2009. Yet he's steadying his assessment on the fundamentals for the ag business.
"We are quite unsure of the year ahead, but ag industry trends are still strong for the need in precision agriculture,” Huber said. "Trimble can provide equipment to reduce every input cost a farmer can incur.” His advice for the coming year is to, "manage risk and capture opportunity.”