Discover how Smart Guided Systems is offering precision-guidance systems that use state-of-the-art technology to improve equipment efficiency in the Horticulture and Grounds Maintenance industry.
BK: Welcome to HXGN RADIO. Welcome back, my name is Brian. Thank you for joining us today. With a recent OEM agreement, Hexagon’s agriculture division has partnered with Smart Guided Systems to provide key precision guidance technologies for various commercial applications to Kubota Tractor Corporation. Smart Guided Systems offers precision guidance systems that can use state-of-the-art technology to improve equipment efficiency. Today, we’ll be exploring the partnership between Hexagon and Smart Guided Systems and learning how technologies from both companies are being combined to offer a custom solution.
With me today is Steve Booher, the founder and CEO of Smart Guided Systems. Today, we will be exploring the offerings of Smart Guided Systems and how they are being used. Steve, thanks for joining me.
SB: Thank you, Brian.
BK: All right, well I’m excited we get to chat, so let’s get started. Tell us a little bit about how you came to start Smart Guided Systems.
SB: I think really it went back probably to about 10 years ago when the company I ran did engineering work for John Deere, AGCO and other ag-related companies, and we saw an opportunity to increase the productivity in the horticulture and grounds and maintenance operations. As we evaluated different technologies, we decided that we wanted to focus initially on steering machines, really focused on grounds maintenance and grounds care for large commercial applications.
BK: Excellent. What kind of technology does Smart Guided Systems offer to its customers, to the industry?
SB: We offer precision guidance including steering for all class of Kubota machines, and that’s RTVs, which is utility vehicles. Every tractor class that they make and also the F-series mower, which is a front-deck, rear-steer mower, and our system adapts to all those existing Kubota machines.
BK: Excellent. Okay, so explain the technology just a little bit, just to understand it.
SB: We have an Android tablet that we use as our interface for the operator. We have a web portal that you’re able to build out and select the areas that need mowing for the day. Also, you can select the direction and angle of the cut and you can assign those work orders to the operator, so when the operator gets on his machine with his tablet, he syncs and downloads his work orders for the day and at that point, he can go out and auto-steer just by hitting the play button on his machine and be guided through the entire cutting operation.
BK: Nice. Makes life a little easier. That’s great. All right, so tell us a little bit about the OEM partnership between Smart Guided Systems and Hexagon?
SB: It originally started, we had a previous supplier that was going to supply us some of the electronics and steering algorithms that we needed. After probably six months of evaluating and testing with that supplier, we soon knew that they wouldn’t be able to get to the level that we needed. One thing that we offer is the ability to do all turns and turn as sharp as the machine is able to turn on the turn radius. At that point, we evaluated our options on picking a new supplier for those electronic components and we were introduced to Hexagon at that time, and it was a Hexagon Ventures and the Hexagon Agriculture division that we were introduced to. At that point, then we completed a development agreement, which then led to a completion of the technology in those components.
BK: Excellent, now what about the relationship with Kubota Tractor Corporation?
SB: That originally started about three years ago. I had actually completed a 3-D animation … and it went literally from a concept of an animation to a cooperative working agreement, which just meant that they would work with us, provide machines to us and go to the next step. Once we gave a fill demonstration of how the technology actually worked compared to the animation, that’s when they moved forward, we signed what’s called an alliance agreement. In Kubota’s 45-year history in the U.S., we’re only the sixth company that has completed such an alliance agreement with Kubota Tractor Corporation.
What that means is that all dealers will have the opportunity to become Smart Guided Systems dealers with Kubota’s support of their sales people and service people, promoting that alliance agreement.
BK: Is Kubota, they’re careful basically on who they partner with?
SB: Very, very careful. We had to get engineering and safety sign off all the way through Japan. We are adding our equipment to machines versus factory installed, which made it an easier agreement to get through, but it did take a lot of testing and a lot of due diligence on their part to prove our technology.
BK: Absolutely. That says something. That’s wonderful. All right, so tell me about the technology as it relates to other solutions that are available out there on the market. What sets yours apart?
SB: There’s a precision ag-systems on the market and they’ve been on the market for a long time. I think what really set us apart with Kubota was that we designed our system from the ground up for grounds and maintenance and horticulture markets. We used an easier-to-use Android tablet, and I think that’s what enabled us to get the Kubota alliance agreement – we didn’t try to take an existing ag-system that’s usually overpriced and pushed that down to work on Kubota equipment where we really designed it for their market up. I think that’s the real difference between our system and other systems on the market.
BK: Nice. Have you heard some feedback from the customers and some of the companies that you work with and success stories and that kind of thing? Anything specific?
SB: You know, a lot of operators and supervisors will say is that they’re able to reduce training time with seasonal help. They’re able to get better quality results from their lower-skill operators. Even get better results from their high-skilled operators, so it really is a win-win for the whole organisation. There’s been a lot of feedback. The productivity gains are about 20%, and that’s the result of less overlap when you mow and increased speed slightly because you’re not focused on driving. Fatigue of the operator is reduced and some of these people are out in the field 12 hours a day. The ability just to hit the play button and not have to worry about steering is a big thing for them.
BK: Yeah. That’s great. That’s wonderful. What do see in the future for precision-guided technologies and Smart Guided Systems’ role in that as well?
SB: One thing that we offer is a record-replay function for an operator. An example would be a vineyard that’s not straight and today you don’t see much precision in agriculture in vineyards because a lot of vineyards are rolling over hills, so we’re able to do a record-replay where you can drive that vineyard once with a skilled operator and then get plus or minus five-centimetre accuracy with an unskilled operator. Especially in vineyards as an example, they go through those vineyards 18 to 20 times per growing season and skilled operators is a problem everywhere. If you can reduce that reliance on skilled operators and put inexperienced operators in or less experienced, that’s been a big benefit. I think that’s an area that we’ll see a lot of growth in horticulture, where precision-ag didn’t really work because it wasn’t designed for that market, and the fact that we can record-replay.
BK: That’s great. It’s good to hear that you know the success stories and how it’s really helping and it’s obviously solving some problems and making things much easier. Fantastic. Anything else before we wrap up?
SB: I don’t think so. I think Hexagon has been a great partner. They put a lot of energy and work into making the agreement and partnership work and they’ve been a really good supplier and stepped up to the plate where the other supplier could not do that. We’re using other businesses besides Hexagon Agriculture, we’re using the NovAtel business and the Smart Net group, and they’re all global players and that’s important as we expand out to global markets, which will be next.
BK: Love it. Awesome. Steve, thank you so much for sharing all this. Thank for your time today, appreciate it.
SB: All right, you’re welcome. Thank you, Brian.
BK: You can learn more about Smart Guided Systems at SmartGuided.com and be sure to tune in to more episodes of HXGN RADIO, HXGNRadio.com, iTunes, Sound Cloud, or Stitcher Radio and thank you so much for joining us today. Have a great day.