Editor's Notebook: Let's talk spraying

Editor's Notebook: Let's talk spraying

Assistant Editor Guy Cipriano explains why this winter has become a popular time to introduce GPS-guided technology in spraying to superintendents and spray technicians.

January 19, 2015

GCI asked superintendents in its annual State of the Industry survey to reveal the one piece of equipment atop their wish lists.

The answers ranged from the predictable such as greens and fairway mowers to the bizarre such as a jet, an object worth more than many golf courses. A jet would be splendid for aerial photography, entertaining members and attracting employees in a suddenly resurgent economy. Given the hefty up-front cost and lack of qualified air traffic personnel working at golf courses, the jet-seeking superintendent might be disappointed in his club’s 2015 purchasing decisions.

Getting from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible, a process mastered by airborne jets, applies to a newcomer on some superintendent wish lists: GPS-guided sprayers. A vehicular form of Precision Turf Management and a topic we examined last summer (bit.ly/1t28XI2), GPS technology in spraying has become an increasingly popular subject during the winter educational and trade show circuit.

GCI received an opportunity to visit a presentation by industry newcomer Turflux last week: “What’s GPS and what’s in it for me.” This represented a rare time when we didn’t need to board a jet to hear an informative presentation. Turflux vice president of marketing and sales Andy Billing introduced the technology to a group of superintendents and spray technicians during a visit to Baker Vehicle Systems in Macedonia, Ohio. According to the GPS technology in an iPhone 5, Baker Vehicle is 8.6 miles from our headquarters.

Billing, a former assistant superintendent, described how GPS technology used by Raven Industries in agriculture has reached the golf industry. “We’re not guinea pigs,” Billing says. The GPS technology entering the golf industry can be applied to existing sprayers, a conversion process that takes 16 hours for service technicians to complete, according to Billing. The converted sprayers feature RTK (Real Time Kinematic) technology, meaning users only need to tour a course once to complete a spray route that can be stored into a GPS system.

Nine courses, ranging from family-owned public facilities to high-end private Western Pennsylvania country clubs, own sprayers converted to the GPS-guided system offered by Turflux. Superintendents using the technology are experiencing 15 to 25 percent annual savings in their chemical budgets because of reduced overlapping and overspraying, according to Billing.

The presentation, which included an indoor demonstration of a converted sprayer, sparked numerous questions from attendees. The majority of the audience had never seen a GPS-guided sprayer before last week. One high-profile facility brought multiple spray technicians to the presentation.

Turflux announced its strategic partnership with Raven Industries in early November, and Billing estimates he has already made 30 presentations. The Northeast represents a potentially fertile market for companies offering GPS-guided sprayers. Courses in the region will spend an average of $75,610 on pesticides, including $58,200 on fungicides, in 2015, according to GCI’s State of the Industry research.

Expect some Northeast superintendents to be jetting to their facility’s decision-makers this year with proposals to add GPS technology to an existing sprayer or two.

Guy Cipriano is GCI’s assistant editor.