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John Deere is plowing IoT into its farm equipment

Tim Greene | May 18, 2016
Add-ons, embedded technology make sowing and reaping more efficient.

More complex is a forage harvester that gathers corn and corn stalks that are used to feed cattle. The harvester has no storage onboard and John Deere has technology that orchestrates series of tractors and carts unloading the harvesters one after another. “It’s hard to know when it’s done loading or unloading so we use technology to manage that process for both the driver of the forage harvester and the driver of the cart,” he says.

On large farms this gets very complex. “There’s a huge logistical plan thinking about how do you do both when you’re planting the field, bringing the seed in and the nutrients in to manage the planting operation. But then at harvest it’s even more complex. How do you bring grain or silage off the field and then what are you doing with it?” he says. It could go to a grain elevator to be stored or to a farm. John Deere has technology to track the vehicles, whether they are full, whether their engines are running, etc. so managers can figure out the best way to accomplish the harvest efficiently.

John Deere has cloud-based software called Operations Center that tracks assets as they call in. Each large tractor has a cellular modem used to send location data and diagnostic readings about the performance of the systems on the vehicle. They also say what operation each is performing, tilling, planting, etc.

Harvest Mobile is an iPad application for a table in the combine that displays the speed, settings and the yield coming off the combine. The operator can see the readings in the cab of the machine, but it is also sent wirelessly to Operations Center so progress can be monitored remotely by a manager who can troubleshoot.

The John Deere cloud service is Web based and moving to cloud-based to view, manage and control data gathered in the field. It gives a view of where equipment is and what it’s doing. Broadly the goal is to increase the yield from given plots of land over time and to take into account how plots vary.

This can involve variable rate techniques, such as planting more seeds in areas with soil that can support more plants. Seed counts might be varied from 26,000 to 35,000 seeds per acre to maximize yield, for example. Growers can share this type of data with other John Deere customers if they choose to, helping others to decide how they should plant their own fields.


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