Distance holds no danger in support
Timeliness is the name of the game for Nick Westphalen, who looks for technologies he can rely on to keep his Mallee broadacre business on track regardless of distance, access to experts, or even a pandemic.
This year John Deere Connected Support became integral to the ongoing success of Mr Westphalen’s operation, ensuring he could access operational support despite COVID-19 travel restrictions and social distancing.
Mr Westphalen and wife Tamara started their broadacre cropping business, Westgrow, in 2010, powered by a passion for farming, strong business acumen and industry knowledge from Mr Westphalen’s days running Park Motors at Pinnaroo, just over the South Australia border.
His grandfather started the John Deere dealership in the 1940s and it stayed in the family until 2009, when Mr Westphalen swapped selling tractors for driving them.
Westgrow’s cropping program is 60 per cent cereals and 40 per cent lupins, lentils, vetch hay and canola.
This year, yield targets are 2.5t/ha for barley and 1.9t/ha wheat.
Although the family lives at Pinnaroo and farms in Victoria, COVID-19 didn’t present a huge imposition on the business.
However, with some land outside the 40km buffer zone established for cross-border travel, there were times when Mr Westphalen could not access paddocks and his two employees could not travel into South Australia to collect parts or chemicals.
Mr Westphalen said the pandemic would have thrown a spanner in the works at seeding if it had not been for Connected Support.
He had just taken delivery of a new John Deere 9470RT tractor fitted with AutoTrac automatic steering and a dual-display, Generation 4 CommandCentre — features that have formed the foundation of his precision agriculture journey.
In any other year, a technician would have made the five-hour return trip out from the Haeuslers dealership in Mildura to show Mr Westphalen the ropes of Gen4. But with social distancing in force, the technician turned to Remote Display Access, which is enabled via JDLink to connect virtually to Nick’s cab.
“I was sitting in the tractor and the technician was working from home,” Mr Westphalen said.
“He could see what was on my screen so he knew where I was up to and could talk me through setting up for seeding.
“It can be overwhelming to sit down for hours going through a new program. The ability to learn the system in blocks of time let me process the information and try it out in the paddock as I went, so it was more efficient for everyone.”
The technician also logged in virtually during seeding to talk Mr Westphalen through any questions he had without the need to halt operations.
Expert Alerts, a feature that provides Mr Westphalen with confidence, allows dealers to proactively identify and diagnose a machine in some situations before it becomes symptomatic.
The diagnostic tool can assist a technician who has been alerted by an Expert Alert to assess if the machine requires urgent attention, or if it can continue temporarily until a convenient time, maximising a machine’s work time and minimising the impact to the bottom line.
“This feature will be vital if we do have a problem as we can quickly diagnose it without the downtime from waiting for a mechanic to come out,” Mr Westphalen said.
“It gives us peace of mind — we might think it’s a little thing and keep going, but if it turns out to be a big problem, that could create a lot of stress, expense and lost time.”
Mr Westphalen also uses the John Deere MyOperations app to stay informed as to where his workers are when he is not in the paddock and to help plan the timing of vital work, such as scheduling trucks.
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