WASHINGTON— Agriculture equipment manufacturer John Deere wants to add more satellite connectivity solutions to its equipment that can help farmers work more efficiently.
The company is assessing a slew of satcom proposals from multiple vendors as it looks to connect its machines and technologies via satellite.
“In many cases, the missing link is connectivity, and this closes that gap,” Jonny Spendlove, senior manager of connectivity at John Deere, told Connectivity Business News at the Satellite 2023 conference in Washington. “Certainly, we feel like this will make us more competitive wherever we are able to deploy it.”
John Deere is no stranger to satellite connectivity. In 1999, John Deere bought satellite navigation company NavCom Technologies to develop the StarFire network, which allows companies to track their equipment.
“With a typical [global navigation satellite system] location device, you can get within 15 feet of where that device is. Well, if you’re planting seeds in the ground and you want to know where all those seeds are, it’s got to be a lot better,” Spendlove said.
The StarFire Network can determine the location of an object to within 2.5 centimeters.
“When you start layering information on each of those seeds that you’re planting, you have a much more accurate understanding of what you’ve done,” Spendlove said. “What have I planted where? What have I sprayed where? What’s the water link in these locations? What’s the soil content?”
StarFire Network devices are on most of John Deere’s large production and precision agriculture machines.
StarFire receivers are limited, however, in that they cannot transmit the data they collect back over the network. The next step for John Deere is to enable its machines to send data as well as receive it.
The new transmission connectivity service is not a replacement for StarFire; it will greatly expand what customers can do, Spendlove said. If multiple machines are working the same field, they can share the location of where they sprayed to collaborate and avoid duplication. Additionally, if a machine stops functioning correctly, operators can pull up diagnostics via a satellite-connected remote display. Instead of driving out to the machine, operators can quickly assess the issue without leaving headquarters. And if the issue can’t be troubleshot operators can share those diagnostics with the dealer for additional help.
In September 2022, John Deere issued a request for proposals to find a satcom provider for this data transmission service.
“We received a number of proposals … and I would say there were some very good options for us,” Spendlove said.
He declined to share who submitted proposals or when John Deere would pick a vendor, but he said the company is on track to have something in the field by the end of 2024.
This story first appeared on Connectivity Business, a sister publication to Equipment Finance News