John Deere wants to feed the world using 5G, cloud computing
Moline, Illinois-based John Deere packs a lot of technology into its tractors. In fact, in some ways John Deere more closely resembles a tech company than it does an agriculture firm. The company hopes to use its expertise in both agriculture and technology to improve current farming practices and increase food production around the world.
While that might sound like a lofty goal, John Deere is already using 4G technology and GPS to make farmers more efficient. The company currently offers GPS-directed tractors that, when coupled with the company’s correction technology, can steer to within an inch of where the tractor needs to be, allowing for very precise seed planting. According to the company, a single John Deere tractor and planter can precisely plant more than 700 corn seeds and 2,800 soybean seeds every second.
20 years of self-driving experience
Although the company’s GPS-enabled tractors are self-driving, a human operator is still required to be in the cab. “We’ve been doing this for 20 years. It started out simply driving with straight tracks,” said Lane Arthur, vice president of data, applications and analytics at John Deere. Arthur said he recently spoke with one of John Deere’s customers in North Dakota who told him that he didn’t have to touch the steering wheel in the tractor for more than four hours. “He only had to stop to add more seeds,” Arthur said.
John Deere tractors are outfitted with an LTE modem on top of the tractor cab. That modem is used to transmit data that the tractor collects as it moves across the field. The amount of data is extensive: For example, John Deere’s highly automated 8RX tractor with a 60-foot, 24-row planter has more than 300 sensors and 140 controllers, which can process 15,000 measurements per second per machine.
Once the data is collected and sent to the cloud, it is used for analysis. “When we pass over the field, we ship a lot of information into the cloud,” said Nancy Post, director of the embedded software and solutions group at John Deere. “Each time we pass over a field, we make the tractor smarter.”
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