John Deere ya no quiere ser únicamente una empresa de tractores. También quiere serlo de satélites

John Deere no longer wants to be just a tractor company. It also wants to be a satellite company

When he set up his business in the second third of the 19th century, John Deere was a blacksmith who had just settled in Illinois and innovated with the shape and material of plows. More than 180 years ago, both the agricultural sector and his company, Deere & Company, now a large multinational, have little to do with the steel implements hammered by the old Deere.

If there were any doubts, this was confirmed this week by Jahmy Hindman, a director of the multinational, who acknowledged during an interview with CNBC that one of the technologies that Deere is looking to in terms of the future is far from the forges, cornfields, greenhouses, farms and silos. Even - at least as far as distance is concerned - from tractors or drones.

The field in which the company wants to delve is satellite communication. And its interest is so strong that it is already finalizing the steps to find a partner to join it in the process.

Hindman's statements on CNBC are just the confirmation of a strategy that the company advanced back in the fall, when it announced that it was looking for allies for its commitment to satellite communications. What it did then was to issue a Request for Proposals, a commercial document expressing its interest in SATCOMs and soliciting bids from contractors.

"Unlocking significant opportunities"

The goal is to take advantage of its capabilities to pursue "a leading-edge solution" that enhances the capabilities of its fleet and the satellite connectivity it already now offers to its customers.

"We believe that satellite communication will unlock significant opportunities in agriculture by enabling farmers to take advantage of innovative technologies that rely on real-time information and communication," noted Lane Arthur, another executive at the U.S. firm.

By way of example the company points to its autonomous tractors, which benefit from real-time communication through John Deere's operations center. "Farmers use the app to start and stop the machine, monitor the work it's running and determine what it should do when it encounters an obstacle," Arthur detailed in September. Now the company acknowledges that it has moved forward in its process to gain a partner in its satellite bid.

"We've been focused on trying to solve connectivity globally. We see the growing efforts in low-Earth orbit [LEO] satellites as an example, potentially, for us to start solving some of those connectivity issues," Hindman comments. With the technology Deere wants to create a geospatial map that will help farmers.

The company's move is part of its commitment to an increasingly automated and efficient agriculture, in which resources such as artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, cameras and sensors are used. By the next turn of the decade, it aims to have an autonomous farming system that can be applied to row crops.

Another of the multinational's objectives is to have close to 1.5 million machines and 500 million acres of crops - equivalent to more than 202 million hectares - connected to its cloud-based Operations Center by 2026.

The bet has a clear reflection in its business, in which software commercialization occupies a relevant role. Not long ago its CEO, John May, admitted that he expects that by the end of this decade software usage fees will already generate 10% of the firm's revenues.

Source: Xakata

Translated with (free version)

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