John Deere Digitalization & Automation Increases Farming Productivity

John Deere Digitalization & Automation Increases Farming Productivity
John Deere Digitalization & Automation Increases Farming Productivity

In addition to automation in factories, John Deere has applied a wide range of technologies to the difficult task of automating farming. Leading edge technologies and Industry 4.0 concepts are incorporated in John Deere’s new products, increasing productivity enabling farmers to produce more to feed a growing global population. The latest offering featured at the 2021 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is the highly automated 8RX Tractor and a 60-foot, 24-row planter that uses more than 300 sensors and 140 embedded controllers that process up to 15,000 measurements per second to precisely plant at the rate of over 700 corn seeds–or 2,800 soybean seeds every second. This far more sophisticated than sticking seeds in the ground; using precision planting John Deere uses sensors and onboard computing to determine the optimal depth based on current soil conditions to improve crop yields. 

The world’s population is expected to grow to nearly 10 billion by 2050, increasing global food demand by 50%. To reduce hunger and serve a growing population, John Deere is committed to increasing agricultural productivity by 60 to 70%. In 1950, the two-row John Deere Model 290 Planter rate was 30 acres per day. Today’s 24-row planter can plant more than 45 acres per hour (that’s up to 540 acres planted in a 12-hour day)!

Integrated technologies

The 8RX Tractor and 60-foot, 24-row planter are effective with the orchestration of a number of integrated technologies to accomplish a self-driving solution for efficient, precision and accurate planting in uniform rows. Technologies deployed include mechatronics, advanced sensors, precision GPS, artificial intelligence and innovative mechanical design. John Deere processes five to 15 million sensor measurements every second, upwards of 100 megabytes per second into the Deere data platform. 

High tech row planting units

The ExactEmerge™ row planting units are an innovative application of mechatronics, sensors and controls orchestrated by advanced automation and AI (Artificial Intelligence). The unit is powered by two brushless maintenance free motors that run more efficiently and have longer life than previous methods. These are all electric units eliminating cumbersome hydraulics to be more responsive, efficient and reliable.

ExactEmerge™ row planting units are fundamental for accomplishing the taks of high speed preceino palnting.

The units incorporate a “row cleaner” to move last year’s soil and residue away then open a trench and precisely place the seed based on sensor-based calculations and use a closing wheel to cover the seed with soil firming it down. Speed of planting has been improved dramatically increasing overall productivity:

  • 2,600 soybean seeds per minute, 23 milliseconds per seed!

  • 700 corn seeds per minute, 86 milliseconds per seed!

The ExactEmerge™ row planting units in the 60-foot, 24-row planter are modular units can be applied to smaller footprint configurations with less row coverage.
Watch the video.
John Deere ExactEmerge™ Virtual Tour

Remote monitoring & management

The John Deere JDLink Connect provides a way for farmers to remotely monitor and manage an entire fleet in real time communicating using a cellular modem to transmit and receive over the Internet. In areas where cell signals are weak or unreliable, satellite modems are available to enable an automatic switch to satellite mode when cellular connection is unavailable.

Many types of data can be transferred to and from the machine including machine usage information like fuel and trouble codes, machine location and other statistics. In addition, geospatial field information files for planting, harvest, application, and tillage can be automatically transferred from the machine to the John Deere Operations Center for further analysis and reporting. JDLink also provides security to protect equipment with geofencing and curfew alerts. Machine data collected by JDLink™ includes:

  • Location

  • Driving Directions

  • Hours

  • Hours of Operation

  • Missed Calls

  • Time and feature utilization

  • Fuel consumption

  • Engine and machine health

  • Machine performance

Precision agriculture

John Deere is committed to precision agriculture technologies to increase crop yields and profitability including lowering the levels of traditional inputs needed to grow crops (land, water, fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides). Deere has invested in Precision Ag Technology including technologies to for highly accurate GPS. Seamlessly connecting machines, people, technology leading to understanding and insights to improve farming productivity and profits.

All large John Deere machines include built-in GPS, enabling the accuracy of cameras, sensors and equipment to 2.5 cm. This is extremely precise in comparison with a typical GPS-enabled smartphone that is accurate to within a 4.9-meter (16 feet) radius under open sky.

Dan Leibfried, director, Automation & Autonomy, described the company’s goal to bring the farm field into the digital age: “The first and foremost thing is to get farms connected; every acre that is  under management needs to be connected.”

Thoughts & observations

John Deere is a great example that Digitalization and Industry 4.0 technology and concepts are being applied beyond factories into a wide range of applications with great results.

The fact that the Consumer Electronics Show features technologies that can be applied to a wide range of applications including personal, commercial and industrial applications illustrates the commoditization of technologies that will continue to drive performance at lower cost. For example:

  • 3D Printing

  • 5G Technologies

  • Augmented Reality

  • Virtual Reality

  • Extended Reality

  • Artificial Intelligence

  • Blockchain

  • Cloud Computing/Data

  • Cybersecurity

  • Energy/Power IoT/Sensors

  • Quantum Computing

  • Robotics

About The Author

Bill Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. In addition to working at various large companies (e.g., Sundstrand, Johnson Controls, and Wago), Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, where he designed controls, automation systems, and software for chiller and boiler plant optimization. He was also a product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and president of an industrial control software company.

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