Buying Used AgTech Equipment

There are obvious cost benefits if you buy second hand agtech equipment, but remember you are buying equipment that someone else doesn’t want- and that’s probably for a good reason. Here are a handful of things to consider before purchasing used ag and farming technology. We’re not saying don’t do it. You will save money, but we’re just saying there are obvious time savers and often less hassles if you buy something new from the manufacturer, dealer, or distributor.

Screens and Displays

A lot of agtech products and equipment have monitors or screen displays that provide you with useful information (and sometimes critical safety information as well). If the screens are not looked after, or are old, they can stop working, or just one single pixel, or an area of the display or screen may not work. Check all used monitors by first inspecting the case and screen condition, then cords and cables (are the cords that you need included?), and then finally, ask to see the monitors, displays, and screens to be switched on so you can see them light up as they’re meant to.

Replacing a screen is costly and some screens and monitors are no longer readily available (if at all) so finding replacements parts is difficult. If you are purchasing second hand without a warranty, try to purchase well-known brands because if you need replacement parts they are easier to find.

Security Codes and Lock Codes

If you’re purchasing either new or used agtech equipment, quite often you’ll find that displays and monitors, auto steer controllers, and other software enhanced solutions will come with a set of unlock codes or security codes to activate certain features or upgrades. For some machinery having the right unlock code is critical so you need to know exactly which unlock codes are included in the price. You can buy unlock codes to equipment from original equipment manufacturers and dealerships but they’re costly and you nearly always need to truck the equipment into store, so they can plug it in to a computer in the shop. 

There are stories of farmers spending up to $3,000 on a new controller for a harvester, but then realising it doesn’t include the right unlock codes. Going out and buying them might then cost an additional $2,000, but you could’ve bought the same controller with those unlocks loaded onto them, for $3,500.”

Test Your AgTech as Soon as You Buy It

Try to buy agtech solutions when you have time to test them out. If you buy equipment but are not planning on using it for six months, at least assign some time to test it out to make sure it’s what you need and that it works.

Too often purchases are made but no consideration is given to the time it takes to install, build, or repair something, especially if its technology related. No matter what it is, it is always easier to return an item and get a refund if you do it within a week of purchase rather than months later.

Ask for a Recent Picture

Try to get a recent picture of any used ag technology items you’re interested in buying. These images are a great indication of how well the current owners take care of their equipment and, ultimately, the technology.  In some cases, the pictures or videos might show how the equipment looked and performed the day after they purchased it, but a more recent picture might reveal your items are dusty, a little worse for ware, and in storage.

A piece of equipment, machine, sensor, or important piece of agtech covered in dirt that has been used out in the weather might have a shortened life. Remember though, it’s not just how the casing looks, it’s how the electronics have been treated.

You should also ask questions like “When was the last time that the equipment was in use? Has the equipment ever failed before? What were the reasons for the failure?”, and “Does the equipment have any warranty and when does the warranty expire?”.

Check for Software and Firmware Updates

If you are thinking about buying used agtech, one of the many things to consider is whether, or not the software or firmware is up to date and if it works with any other technologies you may already have in place, or other technologies you’re looking at using. If your agtech requires a firmware or software update most companies offer free downloads from their websites. In some cases, just like with unlock codes, some updates may need to be done by a dealer and you will need to find the right dealership and bring the equipment in.

Do Some Research

Contact the manufacturers and distributors of new agtech and ask for a quote so you know the retail price of the items you’re looking to buy. You may find that buying agtech new has many unseen benefits, and you also don’t want to overpay if you do decide to buy second hand.

Remember, the reason most people buy used agtech and farm machinery is to save money. So, if you are going to spend a lot on used equipment that may not include a warranty, and that can’t easily be returned, make sure you do your research and speak to other farmers. There is more to a purchase than just buying the main components. Things like software, power, cabling, and even working out where to best position equipment in a cab, on a structure, or in the field can take time to get just right. You also need to think about where you’re going to store your equipment, away from the weather and anywhere where there’s a risk of damage.

Jargon Busting

If you find yourself encountering any jargon, here are a few helpful tips and some useful questions you can ask an agtech vendor to help guide your decision:

  • Some of the jargon might include:

    • (EMU) Engagement and Monitor Unit. A screen that displays vital operating information, hours, diagnostic trouble codes. There are often buttons that allow you to configure things like units of measure.

    • (ATS) Anti-Theft System

    • (FaaS) Farming-as-a-Service: this is when farmers use a subscription or pay-per-use basis to technology available on the Internet.

    • IoT: The Internet of Things (IoT) includes devices connected to the internet through sensors or Wi-Fi that collect information and data.

    • Machine data: Information on how equipment is functioning. This can include fuel/battery consumption, machine health indicators, diagnostic codes, and engine performance.

Some of the useful questions you should ask yourself, and someone you are purchasing agtech equipment from might include:

  • What will be the initial and ongoing costs of this?

  • How will it help me make money, save time, increase safety, or save costs?

  • What sort of technical capability is required to operate this equipment or technology?

  • How well can what I’m looking at buying integrate with other technology I currently use on my farm?

  • What level of Internet connectivity does this solution require to be effective? Would it work in my region?

  • What sort of power supply or power requirements does this require? Do I need an electrician to install anything?

  • What is the customer support like for this technology or equipment if I run into trouble, need spare parts, or have questions?

  • If the technology doesn’t work or it breaks down, who can I contact and how quickly will they respond? Is there a local dealer?

  • Have you given advice or sold technology or equipment to any other customers who are in a similar position to me?

If you have had experiences to-date with agtech (good or bad) we would love to know about them.

Email me at agtechfinder@foodagility.com.

AgTech Mike