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Using Reach RTK for Affordable Auto-Steering on a Farm in Austria

Using Reach on tractor

In our earlier post about Reach RS in precision agriculture, we’ve already spoken of the advantages of accurate GPS-guidance and showed how to use Reach RS to achieve repeatable centimeter accuracy in the field.

The systems for automated steering are now also widely used in agricultural machinery along with the GPS-guidance. Farmers using such systems benefits not only from the economy on sprayers, fertilizers and fuel but auto-steering systems help the driver to reduce the fatigue hence increasing the efficiency.

One of our community members Andreas Ortner (community profile) uses Reach and Reach RS with an auto-steering system on John Deere tractors on his farm in Austria. On 50 ha of land, he grows corn, barley, wheat, sorghum bicolor. Located in a fertile area with a good rainfall during a year, the farm provides the harvest of about 12-15 tons of maize per hectare.

What does it cost?

Andreas equipped his tractor fleet with Reach RTK Kit ($570) and an auto-steering system made from standard components (~$350). Everything is controlled by easy-to-use Cerea GPS software (less than $200) which can do both auto-steering and provide visual guidance. Such hardware and software set is very cost-effective and handy as it doesn’t require complicated integration and may be used on any machinery.

Reach RTK is used in 2 different setups, one is designed just for visual guidance and the second for auto-steering.

Visual Guidance

The visual guidance setup is used for spraying pesticides and fertilizers and includes a laptop running Cerea and Reach connected via USB. Reach rover is connected to the mobile Wi-Fi hotspot on the tractor and gets corrections from Reach base station. The antenna of Reach rover is installed on the roof of the tractor for the best sky view and provides accurate guidance for manual driving.

The main benefit is the reduction of sprayers and fertilizers. A very slight overlap allows reducing the consumption of fuel and sprayers up to 20% in the field.

Reach on a tractor
Reach rover antenna on the roof of the tractor for the GPS-guidance


For the auto-steering Andreas has acquired the set of components from Phidgets containing a motor, encoder, controller and other parts for integration on the tractor. Auto-steer system is also connected via USB to the laptop. In this setup, Cerea running on a laptop is in charge of automatic steering of the tractor using accurate position from Reach. In case of auto-steering the antenna is placed in front of the tractor (see the photo below), this is the most efficient placement for auto-steering software as it immediately corrects the heading of the tractor.

Reach on a tractor
Reach antenna is installed in front of the tractor for the better heading correction


With new ReachView 2, the receiver gets fixed solution quickly and securely holds it in the field, providing smooth auto-steering and repeatable accuracy while harrowing and fertilizing before seeding. These applications require only 10-30 centimeter accuracy however in autumn Andreas will plant cereals using RTK and that’s where centimeter accuracy will be the key requirement.

Tractor path output from Cerea to QGIS
Tractor path output from Cerea to QGIS. Andreas reports quick and strong fix when using Reach in the field

Currently, Andreas is using 2 Reach units for his operations but is planning to test Reach RS on his tractors. 2 Reach RS may be perfect for precision farming application as they communicate via built-in LoRa radio and don’t need the Internet connection. They also packed with battery and antenna, all this in the weatherproof housing. This makes the setup of RTK receivers on vehicles faster and easier.

Start using Reach/Reach RS on your tractor 

Reach and Reach RS outputs the position in different formats including NMEA 0183.  With many connectivity options (BT, Wi-Fi, TCP or Serial) you can connect the receiver to any Android app for GPS-guidance and to different screens and tablets accepting NMEA.

If you are thinking of accurate and repeatable guidance for your machinery but don’t know where to start—check out our docs and join our community forum!

Reach RS is available in our online shop!