ISOBUS I - an Application that revolutionizes Agriculture

Agriculture is an important part of the German economy. However, the times when large fields were ploughed with horses and the harvest was done with muscle power mostly have become a part of the past. The export powerhouse that is Germany has increasingly cultivated land, bringing the need for cutting-edge technology with it. in order to stay competitive by optimizing performance while minimizing costs, modern methods are more in demand than ever before, especially in the field of IT, i.e. technologies which enable complex installations and machines that perform precision work to communicate and act intelligently. One installation that has proven itself to be more and more advantageous over the past decades is the fieldbus system and in this context, ISOBUS I.

What is ISOBUS I?

First of all, ISOBUS is a registered trademark, formed out of a combination of the word “bus” and the ISO standard. This is because this application, developed specifically for agriculture and municipal services, corresponds to the ISO standard 11783. This standard not only characterizes the physical characteristics of components such as the network, the plug and the wires, but also the forms of the participants within a network, the formatting of the data, and the available interfaces. The relevant components of the J1939 protocol and the NMEA2000 protocol were adopted for the development of ISOBUS I. This also represents a classification of ISOBUS I as an application serving a specific standard. After all, none of the available applications of this brand (by now there are four with this registered trademark) serve all possibilities. They only reflect parts of specific standards.

ISOBUS I and Agriculture

In order to determine this development, relevant terms used in agriculture have to be set in context.
As such, the keywords here are

  • “precision farming” and
  • “transparent production”

After all, in the future the conditions existing on the plot shall be taken into consideration for the dosage of fertilizer and pesticides, in order to ensure that the required quantities reach the field. In practice, this means that plots with a lot of weeds get a lot more pesticide than fields were this is not the case. This criterion is termed precision farming. As such, agricultural work shall be executed accurately and based on detailed planning. The keywords ‘transparent production’ refer to a traceable process. Here it is necessary to ensure that the actions taken can be reproduced in order to find and correct possible sources of error and to gather knowledge about the conditions under which the plants had to grow. Agriculture must therefore become transparent.

The Effect of ISOBUS I

As such, there are now high demands put upon agriculture. This requires equipment and machines that can communicate with each other, i.e. which can perform data exchange. ISOBUS I provides the basis for this. In addition to the aspect of industrial communication, the field of automation technology also carries a fair weight. It should be the goal to get the machines to perform the work automatically, i.e. according to a fixed pattern and without added human intervention. This intention of changing agricultural machines to some kind of robot can only be realized when it is possible to program in advance what is to be done, so that even at this point, internal communication is required in the system.

The Future of ISOBUS I

Until now, the controlling of digital applications that can run automatically was a costly, labour intensive matter. However, ISOBUS I provides more clarity. This is because, conventionally each tractor was electronically divided into its attachments, and these were controlled each via a terminal, which involved a multitude of terminals to be managed depending on the scope of the farmer’s own agricultural machines. The advantage and benefit of using the ISOBUS technology in the field of agriculture is the ability to run many attachments via a single terminal. With this, the type of machine and its manufacturer has no relevance. This is something which also provides the advantage of flexibility and comfort. Thus, the future provides for control of the dosage for all plots via the farm-owned computer and as such, operation of the criterion for the correct distribution of pesticides and fertilizer. Afterwards, the collected data are transferred to the control unit of the tractor, so that it can act as central control computer and can transfer the information to the attachments. Furthermore, one goal is the installation of sensors on the attachments, which then transmit data concerning the properties of the soil or the quantity of weeds to the tractor control unit, which then transfers these data to the farm PC. As such, the future of ISOBUS I can be summarized as having the following tasks:

  • The automation of processes,
  • use of a single central terminal for all attachments,
  • “precision farming”, and
  • “transparent production” data transfer by sensors to the control unit and farm PC.