Described as “a ground-engaging, GPS-controlled steering system that works in conjunction with the tractor guidance system to position an implement with sub-inch accuracy”, the Orthman GPS Shadow Tracker was recently selected as one of 50 recipients of the prestigious American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) AE50 Awards for 2011.

The award was presented to Ryan Hulme, Orthman design engineer for the project, during the ASABE Agricultural Equipment Technology Conference held in Atlanta, Georgia, in conjunction with the Ag Connect Expo. The winners were also highlighted in the March/April 2011 special AE50 issue of ASABE's magazine, Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World.

According to Hulme, the system is comprised of a group of one-blade steering modules hydraulically linked to move in unison. One master module provides blade position feedback to the steering control system. The remaining blade modules “shadow” the master, matching its blade position via linked rephrasing hydraulic cylinders. Shadow systems are available in one, two, three, four, five and six blade systems with the number of Shadow blades being proportionate to the overall size of the implement.

One of the features recognized by the judges was the fact that the individual blade module design, combined with the use of hydraulic, rather than mechanical connections between modules, allows for mounting versatility on a multitude of planting implements. This allows growers with center flex planter frames the ability to have sub-inch accuracy implement guidance, which was previously unavailable.

The panel of AE50 judges also noted that the GPS Shadow Tracker is compatible with the most common guidance systems on the market, including those marketed by Trimble, AutoFarm, and John Deere.

The AE50 program, which has been applauding engineering achievements for more than a decade, is the only awards program of its kind to reward companies for developments in specific areas of agricultural, food and biological systems. The 2011 AE50 winners represent the world’s best technology innovations introduced in 2010. Each was selected for the product’s ability to save producers time, cost and labor, while solving problems and improving user safety.

“We’re pleased to have had the GPS Shadow Tracker recognized by the AE50 panel,” says Hulme. “However, we’re even more pleased that the versatility of the system can help even more farmers reduce stress, fatigue and crop input costs. Ever since Henry Orthman began using 7 X 7-inch structural tubing for equipment frames in the 1960s, it has become the industry standard — and the Shadow Tracker takes advantage of that standardization. It can be mounted wherever there is an open section of 7 X 7 on the planter frame.”

For more information about AE50, Resource magazine or ASABE, contact Publications Director Donna M. Hull at (269) 932-7026 or

For more information on the GPS Shadow Tracker, or any of Orthman’s full line of agricultural products, visit