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April 11, 2023
The John Deere vision of tech-enabled farming involves a high degree of connectivity.
In addition to hundreds of sensors in its farming machines that track everything from seed planting to fertilizing and weeding, the Deere machines need communication capabilities to be able to deal with the rapid information collection and flow.
For example, to ensure that crops are fertilized on schedule without later duplication, farming equipment must be continually connected to precisely track where it is going and where it has been.
On large farms, with numerous machines running in fields simultaneously, connectivity among machines is also necessary for coordination purposes.
“We have customers who have more than one million acres of farmland,” Jonny Spendlove, senior product manager of connectivity at John Deere, said at the John Deere Tech Summit, a three-day private event for media and tech influencers held in Austin.
“A customer we are working with has 20,000 acres and they are spraying their crops eight times during the growing season,” said Spendlove.
“Imagine you are trying to spray 15,000 football fields eight times. That is a lot of land you are spraying, so many of them will use two sprayers and you do not want to overlap what is already sprayed. When two sprayers working a field come together, they utilize data-sharing to make sure they do not spray the same area twice. They cannot do that unless they are connected.
“This is a technology that allows our customers and our machines to share data with other operators or other machines in a field while they are working at the same time.”
On a large farm, Deere machines are wirelessly connected to each other, and the farmer can view the actions and productivity on a PC screen or a mobile device.
Adding connectivity into tractors is not new for Deere, but it is becoming more critical as more self-operating and self-driving technology is added.
“We have about 500,000 machines that are connected, and these are primarily utilizing cellular terrestrial connectivity between our construction and ag divisions,” said Spendlove. “We have an ambition to connect another one million machines by 2026. This will primarily be terrestrial cellular connectivity, but this is a global goal. And many of these machines will be connected by satellite between now and 2026. The connectivity opportunity will allow us to drive more productivity, more efficiency and more sustainability into agriculture over the next several years.”
Deere is pursuing increasing its overall communication capabilities both in the United States and Brazil.
“Our immediate needs for a satellite communications partner are essentially high-performing, medium bandwidth, but somewhat low latency,” said Spendlove. “We know that over time, we are going to be introducing new use cases that are going to require lower latency and higher bandwidth, so we are preparing for that as part of this process.”
For personal communications, the tractors have screens in the cab and with cellular connections, operators in the cabs can call in help from farm technicians who may be back at the center of the farm to get problems resolved remotely without requiring a trip to the machine. Deere dealers also can be patched in remotely when necessary.
“We all use connectivity so often that we take it for granted until we get to a moment where we don't have connectivity where there is a gap,” said Spendlove. “Then we really, really feel it.”
Deere is focused on eliminating the risk of any gaps in communications.
This is the third in a series on how John Deere is taking high-tech farming to the next level.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, IoT World Today. To subscribe to the IoT World Today newsletter, click here.
Editorial Director AI & IoT
Chuck Martin, a New York Times Business Bestselling author, futurist and columnist, is Editorial Director at Informa Tech, home of AI Business, IoT World Today and Enter Quantum. Martin has been a leader in emerging digital technologies for more than two decades. He is considered one of the foremost Internet of Things (IoT) experts in the world and his latest book is titled "Digital Transformation 3.0" (The New Business-to-Consumer Connections of The Internet of Things). He hosts a worldwide podcast titled “The Voices of the Internet of Things with Chuck Martin,” where he converses with top executives from the companies driving the Internet of Things.
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