One farmer’s one-man band machinery control
Moving back and forth between the cab and equipment while the tractor is running takes time, energy and risk
A farmer from Grande Prairie, Alta., was tired of climbing in and out of his tractor to engage and disengage the power take-off while bagging and extracting grain, so he built a remote-controlled device to make these jobs easier.
“It goes into the cubbyhole and then attaches to the screw points the little padded cushion attaches to,” said Vincent Pawluski, owner of RcFarmArm.
“You have two actuators that can pull two different hydraulics, and then there’s the PTO mechanism that controls this switch on and off, and the RPM dial.”
He went to great lengths to design the remote-controlled device in a way that wouldn’t threaten his tractor’s warranty.
“This is purposely built to get around the CAN bus systems because when you start tying into CAN bus systems if there is ever a problem on the CAN bus side, or error codes, the last guy that touched it is the guy who gets in trouble. That’s just how it works,” Pawluski said.
“John Deere will blame me if there is something messed up in the CAN bus, whether it is my fault or not, because I’m the third party guy.”
He said the RcFarmArm engages all the control surfaces just like a human finger does, so the equipment manufacturers can’t argue the tractor isn’t being controlled the way it was intended to be.
“We’re not really hacking into anything, and it installs in like five minutes,” Pawluski said.
The RcFarmArm draws power from a standard accessory power point in the tractor, and it also has a back-up 12-volt battery that can be used to power the arm if it gets disconnected from the tractor’s power.
The system can also be used to control six customizable functions, and to turn the tractor on or off.
“A second module that fits over top of the key, and it turns the key with two actuators, one to turn it on and a second one to turn the key to start it,” Pawluski said.
“There’s an E (emergency) stop on the arm and an E stop on the remotes. It brings all the actuators back to their off positions, which will turn the key on the tractor off,” Pawluski said.
So far, he has built an arm that fits the 8000 and 9000 John Deere tractors, as well as the 7000 series if they have the full arm rest with fingertip hydraulic controls.
He also is developing a model for the John Deere R series.
For the Case tractors, he has a model that fits the 2011 to 2020 tractors, in the Maximums, Quadtrac, and Pumas series.
For the applications for which Pawluski built the RcFarmArm, bagging and extracting grain, the tractor is not put in gear because the pressure of the auger pushes the tractor when bagging, and the plastic pulls the tractor when extracting.
However, he is building a steering module that will be able to move the steering wheel to help keep everything straight.
On the remote there are six indicator lights that visually alert the operator as to which functions are on.
“We have it set up that you need to press two buttons on the remote to start the PTO, and the two buttons are as far apart as possible on the remote. So you pretty much need two hands to start the PTO and to engage the starter of the tractor. So hopefully, there would be very little chance of accidental engagement of the PTO or the starter.”
Operators can still drive the tractor when the arm is installed.
“The gear shift is left accessible, and in the final design we have one remote that is attached to the armrest, so that should stay in the tractor at all times because otherwise you would have to remove the key-switch module to start the tractor,” Pawluski said.
The third hydraulic control on the tractor is also accessible because it is not connected to the RcFarmArm, and the tractor’s RPM can be controlled with the foot control.
“The starter system and the arm we’re going to be selling for right around $5,000, and then the price on the optional steering control motor is yet to be determined,” Pawluski said.