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Ditch Assist at a Glance

Ditch Assist is an automatic machine control system that controls the raise/lower hydraulics on scrapers, ditchers, land levelers, blades, and just about anything that’s raised and lowered hydraulically. It uses input from a GPS receiver mounted on the implement to adjust height via the included proportional valve – just connect your implement hoses to the valve, and the valve to the tractor. Ditch Assist is the first machine control system to run on Android tablets, meaning BIG cost savings versus paying $thousands for a display, and it’s also the first to offer wireless communications from the cab to the implement.

Ditch Assist started out as a simple system to create drainage ditches with a single grade. Over the past year we’ve added many new features and functions that now make Ditch Assist a viable option for a variety of applications:

  • With the new SLOPE-IQ™ feature, Ditch Assist can now create variable slope ditches that follow the contours of the land – don’t move any more dirt than you need to! You can also now create curved ditches!
  • Also using SLOPE-IQ™ it is now possible to create single or variable slope planes – designed for replacing cumbersome lasers for grading whole fields that are already fairly uniform without needing to survey the whole field. Just survey once down the center of the field and Ditch Assist will create a plane that extends outwards at 90 degrees from your original survey run.
  • Import an advanced land leveling or land forming design from popular software in XYZ text format and Ditch Assist will read the design and adjust the implement accordingly to implement it!
  • As always, Ditch Assist can also be used just like a laser to create a simple ditch on a single grade.
  • Ditch Assist can be used to create a completely level field or pad by entering either a grade of zero, or a required target elevation.
  • Using the Survey function, you can quickly determine the grade between two points, or drive around a site you wish to level flat and Ditch Assist will calculate the average elevation – enter this as your target elevation in Grading Mode to equalize cut/fill volumes.
Ditch Assist uses a mobile proportional valve, meaning any implement that is raised and lowered hydraulically can be controlled. The most commonly used equipment with Ditch Assist are pull-type scrapers, rotary ditchers, land-levelers and blades with a single hydraulic circuit for raise/lower (currently we control only a single hydraulic circuit so equipment with multiple independent cylinders aren’t supported).

It’s also possible to install Ditch Assist without the valve, and use the on-screen Up/Down arrows for visual guidance on equipment that we can’t control such as ‘dozers and backhoes/excavators*.

*We’ll soon be releasing a new system that will provide accurate guidance for bucket elevation at any angle – stay tuned!

Ditch Assist relies on accurate GPS elevation and position data to function. Therefore, we recommend RTK accuracy for the best results. We do however have many customers that run Ditch Assist with corrections such as Trimble’s Centerpoint RTX, Hemisphere’s Atlas, and John Deere’s SF3. On rolling land or land with good natural slopes these receivers generally deliver acceptable results, but do keep in mind that you may experience times when the implement raises or lowers unexpectedly due to inaccuracies in the incoming GPS messages.

Ditch Assist works with virtually any GPS receiver. It uses industry standard NMEA messages from the GPS, meaning your current system (provided you have the required level of accuracy) can probably be used with Ditch Assist. We offer brand-specific cables for the most common GPS receivers, and can even power most ‘smart antennas’ (such as John Deere, Trimble 262/372, Outback A320, Hemisphere Atlas, etc) directly, meaning no messy wiring going back to the tractor cab. The following are common GPS systems our customers are sing today with Ditch Assist:

  • John Deere (all receivers provided you have the required level of accuracy – RTK is recommended)
  • Trimble (all smart antennas, plus FM750/1000 with required level of accuracy)
  • Outback (MAX/STX/S3/A320/A220 running RTK)
  • Ag Leader (all RTK receivers can be used)
Ditch Assist works with any incoming GPS messages, and we have many users running Centerpoint® RTX, and a few using SF3, which appears to be a similar accuracy level. Keep in mind that RTX/SF3 is not RTK! Also note that RTX is not endorsed in any way by Trimble for water management usage as it is designed solely for horizontal accuracy rather than vertical accuracy. With that being said, we’ve done several tests with RTX (and visited with several Ditch Assist owners running it), and seen respectable results. RTX will cause your hydraulics to move up and down slightly while stationary. You may also see some vertical drift over time. RTX also seems susceptible solar storms if you are in the northern climates, and we’ve heard of issues with the signal occasionally going down. Therefore if your fields are pancake flat then RTX/SF3 probably isn’t a good option. On more rolling land with greater slope RTX may work for you. Our recommendation would be to leave your RTX-enabled GPS in the same location for an hour or more and keep coming back and writing down the displayed elevation, plus watch it to see how much the elevation fluctuates when sitting still – if it’s moving more than an inch or two then your implement will also move by this amount when working, so you’d need to decide if this is acceptable.
Not quite, but we’re getting close!

Ditch Assist was designed from the ground up with the goal of being SIMPLE and AFFORDABLE. We have added numerous advanced functions that mean it now delivers about 80-90% of the features found in ‘high-end’ systems, and can give the same results.

If you must have features such as automatically raising the blade when the tractor starts to struggle (versus tapping the Nudge Up button on our app), or setting a max depth per cut (again versus using our Nudge functions), or automatically controlling tilt for side slopes, then Ditch Assist probably isn’t for you. These are very advanced features that justify a much higher price.

We don’t see any point in re-inventing the wheel and coming out with something that replicates everything else on the market – if we did our price point would be the same as theirs!

The Ditch Assist App runs on Android only, so you’ll need an Android tablet. It’s designed for 10″ screens (slightly smaller (e.g. 9.6″) or bigger are fine too).

You’ll need a tablet with at least 1.5GB or 2GB of RAM memory, and it must have a newer version of Android (ideally Nougat, Marshmallow, or Lollipop).

We do most of our testing on the ASUS ZenPad 10 Z300C and Samsung Galaxy Tab E 9.6″ so can suggest these as good options. Others will work too provided they match the above specs. We suggest you avoid really cheap units, even if they have the required specs, as we’ve found in our testing that they have weak Wi-Fi signal and the claimed processing speeds are questionable at best! Opt for a well-known brand for best results.

Throughout the rest of this site you’ll find lots of information about Ditch Assist.

Feel free to install the Ditch Assist app on your Android device (its designed for tablets, but you’ll get a feel for it on a phone too) – just head to the Play Store and search for Ditch Assist. The comprehensive user manual is also there as an app you can download for free.

Our online Knowledge Base has lots of information on how to use Ditch Assist and answers to more common questions.

To talk to someone please check if there’s a dealer close to you or for general sales or dealership inquiries contact our distribution partner, Botterill Sales.

For technical questions or information, please submit a ticket via our Support Portal and one of our developers will contact you.

We’ve been busy!

New features for 2017

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    SLOPE-IQ™ 'BEST FIT' TECHNOLOGY

    Smart ‘best fit’ & curved ditches. Now Ditch Assist lets you survey the proposed route, enter your minimum accepted grade, and automatically designs a best fit solution that follows the natural contours of the land. Move up to 60% less dirt vs laser!

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    LAND LEVELING FUNCTIONALITY

    Use Slope-IQ to create variable slope or single grade planes for land leveling without surveying the whole field – ideal for maintaining laser leveled fields or for smaller/more uniform fields. Or, import an advanced design from 3rd party software and implement it using Ditch Assist

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    IMPORT IMAGERY OR MAPS

    The Map window now supports the import of geo-referenced JPEG or PNG imagery, such as a drainage layout design or cut/fill map, that can be displayed on top of the basemap imagery as a reference layer

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    AVERAGE ELEVATION IN SURVEY MODE

    When you plan to level an area, how do you know what the ideal target elevation should be to equalize your cut/fill volumes as closely as possible? Use survey mode to drive around the area to compute the average elevation. Enter this as the target elevation in Grading Mode to level to this height!

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    ONLINE KNOWLEDGE BASE & SUPPORT AREA

    Simply click the link to the Knowledge Base to view setup and operating information, plus advanced troubleshooting and programming options

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    APP-BASED USER MANUAL

    The Ditch Assist user manual is now offered as an Android App. Install it on your Ditch Assist tablet so its always with you in the field! And, being an app, you’ll get the latest updates each time you connect to the internet

Wireless Communication

Ditch Assist™ is the only grade control system to use Wi-Fi communication between the cab and the implement. This makes the system simple to install, use, and easily moved between different pieces of equipment.

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Compatible with Your Equipment

Ditch Assist™ works with every brand of GPS, every implement that’s raised and lowered hydraulically, and any tractor – regardless of it’s age. Don’t be tied to one brand!

Android Based User Interface

Ditch Assist’s user interface is a free Android app that runs on Android tablets. This makes Ditch Assist the most affordable and easily updatable grade control system available.

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CREATE DRAINS OR PLANES WITH SINGLE OR MULTI-SLOPES

Survey a proposed drainage route, or drive a line from one end of the field to the other. Then, use Slope-IQ™ to design a single or multi-slope ditch or plane based on your survey. Our ‘best-fit’ multi-grade slopes can reduce earth-moving by 60% vs traditional laser!

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IMPORT ADVANCED LAND FORMING OR LEVELING DESIGNS

Import & implement complex multi-slope and multi-plane land leveling designs in XYZ text format from popular software programs. Load the file into the Ditch Assist App. Ditch Assist will interpolate the points to re-create the design surface, and control the hydraulics to implement the design.

CREATE DRAINS OR PLANES WITH SINGLE OR MULTI-SLOPES

Survey a proposed drainage route, or drive a line from one end of the field to the other. Then, use Slope-IQ™ to design a single or multi-slope ditch or plane based on your survey. Our ‘best-fit’ multi-grade slopes can reduce earth-moving by 60% vs traditional laser!

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Import Advanced Land Levelling Designs

Import & implement complex multi-slope and multi-plane land levelling designs in XYZ text format from popular software programs. Load the file into the Ditch Assist App. Ditch Assist will interpolate the points to re-create the design surface, and control the hydraulics to implement the design.

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Wireless

Ditch Assist™ is the only grade control system to use Wi-Fi communication between the cab and the implement. This makes the system simple to install, use, and easily moved between different pieces of equipment.

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Compatible

Ditch Assist™ works with every brand of GPS, every implement that’s raised and lowered hydraulically, and any tractor – regardless of it’s age. Don’t be tied to one brand!

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Runs on Android

Ditch Assist’s user interface is a free Android app that runs on Android tablets. This makes Ditch Assist the most affordable and easily updatable grade control system available.

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Common GPS Systems & How to Set Them Up with Ditch Assist

Current Outback Displays, the MAX and STX, both output NMEA data via serial connection, and are very easy to configure via the display. Set the baud rate to 38,400, and enable GGA and VTG messages at 5Hz. Use cable JCA77-000017.

Outback A320 and A220 (as well as Hemisphere AtlasLink) smart antennas can be directly powered and simultaneously transmit GPS data to Ditch Assist using cable JCA77-000003. These receivers do not need to be programmed to work with Ditch Assist, they are ‘plug & play’!

Trimble TMX 2050 Displays can output NMEA data via the EXP-100 Port Expander that connects to the TM-200. From either the FMX Plus or Precision IQ apps, you can configure the GPS to output messages to this port from the GPS/GNSS Setup menus. Ditch Assist requires a baud rate of 38,400, message rate of 5Hz, and for GGA and VTG messages to be turned ON. Use our Trimble FMX cable (part # JCA77-000016) to connect from the Ditch Assist harness to the port on the EXP-100.

Trimble FM1000 and FM750 Displays can output from either Port A or B on the back of the display, or via the 9-pin serial connector on the NAV Controller harness. If the NAV controller is present then connect to the 9-pin connector on the NAV harness using our DB9 cable (part number JCA77-000017). If connecting to a port on the back of a display use cable JCA77-000016. The following guide we found gives excellent instructions on how to configure the outputs: View Guide

Trimble Smart Antennas (372, 252, etc) can be powered directly and simultaneously deliver GPS messages to Ditch Assist using our cable JCA77-000010. By default they will automatically output messages at 1Hz over CAN that Ditch Assist will use if serial messages aren’t enabled. For best results you should connect to the receiver using Ag Remote (either through a connected Trimble Display or via the PC software) and enable serial outputs on the port you are connecting to (baud rate 38,400, GGA and VTG messages at 5Hz). You may need a local Trimble support person to help you with this.

All John Deere receivers can be used with Ditch Assist. Use cable JCA77-000011 for SF3000 receivers and JCA77-000020 for itc receivers. Both cables power and receive GPS signal from the receivers. Before connecting the receiver to Ditch Assist, you will need to program it via the Greenstar Display in your tractor – navigate to the GPS settings by tapping on the GPS icon on the main screen, select Serial Port, and enable the port with a baud rate of 38,400, message rate of 5Hz, and check the boxes to enable GGA and VTG messages. Exit the settings, power down, then disconnect the receiver from the tractor and plug in the Ditch Assist cable.
Ditch Assist will receive GPS signals from any receiver capable of outputting NMEA data. For most applications, our DB9 serial cable (part # JCA77-000017) is used to connect to a serial port or serial cable attached to the display/GPS receiver being used. Ditch Assist requires NMEA messages in serial format, baud rate of 38,400, and messages GGA and VTG to be turned on at 5Hz.
Cost of
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Future Updates

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Install Time

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VS Other Systems

Distribution of Ditch Assist is handled by Botterill Sales.
For purchasing information and dealer opportunities please call +1-204-871-5004 or complete the Contact Form

Now with Slope-IQ™ ‘Best-Fit’ Technology


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With Slope-IQ™ you can be confident you aren’t moving any more dirt than you need to be. Simply drive along the proposed drainage route (or across a field you’d like to land level) in survey mode. Then, specify the minimum slope you’d like to maintain for your ditch or plane. Ditch Assist will do the rest!



Slope-IQ™ Works with
Curved or Straight Routes


Wherever the land has sufficient natural slope, you won’t move any more dirt (unless you decide to by using the Nudge Down function). Wherever there’s a hump that would hold back water, Slope-IQ™ will implement your minimum grade. The end result is a drain that always has at least your minimum slope, but you won’t move an inch more dirt than needed.


Reduction in
up to 0%
Dirt Moved

Looking for an affordable replacement for a laser for land levelling?

Slope-IQ also works for single or variable slope land-forming on smaller fields, or areas of a field that are fairly uniform. Drive in a straight line down the center of the field or area to be land-formed in survey mode, and design the run as normal. When you start working on either side of your original survey, Ditch Assist will fetch the target height from the nearest point on the original route, effectively ‘stretching’ the design and allowing you to make multiple passes using one original survey. On larger fields, you can repeat this process, effectively dividing the field into smaller areas of similar uniformity.

Example Applications for Ditch Assist

Variable Slope

Survey the proposed route (it can be a straight line or a curve) by driving it. Enter Slope-IQ design screen and enter the minimum required slope. Review and accept the design. Implement design.


Grade a Field or Area

In smaller or uniform fields, use Slope-IQ to design a variable slope through the middle of the field. Ditch Assist will ‘stretch’ the design across the field to create a plane.


Maintain a Grade

Use Survey Mode if needed to determine the grade. Drive to point A, lower your implement to ground. Enter the target grade, and select if you are working Uphill/Downhill. Hit ‘Start’.


Trench and/or Lay Pipe

Use the Nudge function to increase the target depth by as many inches as required. In Slope-IQ mode this will follow the contours of the land. In Grading Mode it will hold a grade.


Level an Area

To create a level area use Ditch Assist in Grading Mode. Enter ‘0’ in the target grade box, lower your blade to the level you’d like to achieve, and hit ‘Start’. Ditch Assist will maintain the same height.


Guidance for Digging

Mount your GPS antenna on the boom, then use the up/down lightbar on the Ditch Assist App to check grade each time you return it to a set position. No laser to move!

With Ditch Assist you’ll achieve the same results as other systems costing several times more!

Typical Hardware Installation


Ditch Assist Operation Principles


Mapping Service

If you farm with high-accuracy GPS you’re probably logging elevation data on every field. We can take your logged data, process it, and provide you with kml drainage maps that you can load as a background layer in Ditch Assist PLUS give you data layers that load in our free drainage design software so you can even do some of your own drainage design! All for just $75/field

The above example images show (a) a screenshot from the Ditch Assist App when the flow routes have been loaded as a background, and (b) a screenshot our our free drainage design software called Geo Surface Analyzer, or ‘GSA’ for short.
Click Here to Learn More

Click the button above to be taken to Northern Plains Drainage Systems’ site where you can learn more about our Mapping Services, and submit orders

Featured Ditch Assist Dealers

MANITOBA

SASKATCHEWAN

ALBERTA

NORTH DAKOTA

IOWA

KANSAS

QUEENSLAND

If you don’t see Dealer Map below click here