John Deere: A Tech Giant Indeed
April 11, 2023
If I learned anything at last week’s John Deere Technology Summit, it’s that this company can go toe-to-toe with any of the technology giants. With the investments in machine vision, AI, EV technology, and so on, it was clear to me that John Deere could likely participate in just about any leading-edge technology application. Kudos to them for sticking to what they do best, and that is mostly agriculture and earth-moving equipment.
At the end of the day, this is really a technology company that just happens to sell farming equipment. The investment they have made is in people, equipment, and farms. Yup, farms, and that’s where I wound up atop a bunch of their giant tractors and other equipment outside of Austin, Texas.
It all started with this tractor, circa somewhere around 1916. It marked Deere’s official move into the tractor business. And the company has never looked back. If you’re wondering, that tractor still operates.
As you can see in the image below, there is no one driving the tractor as it tills the field. The farmer, who no longer needs to sit inside the tractor’s cab, can be off tending to other chores, attending a child’s soccer game, or sleeping, as some of the tasks that need to be performed can be done at night/overnight. The autonomous drive capability comes thanks to extension use of machine vision, machine learning, and AI.
And Deere borrows some of its technology from the automotive industry. If you look closely at the charger on this loader, you’ll see that it’s the same one that’s used on today’s automobiles. Deere just uses lots more battery cells to get to the required power level. And if you need to recharge on the job site, you simply plug into one of these portable charging station.
At the end of the Summit, after speaking with people responsible for user interfaces, remote predictive maintenance, security, batteries and charging, and various other leading edge technologies, it was quite clear that Deere is not taking a back seat when it comes to its farming equipment.