September 14, 2023
John Deere wants to make it easier for producers to have the latest and greatest technology on their machines without having to buy a new planter, combine or sprayer.
The company is rolling out a new Precision Upgrades program that allows customers to pick and choose upgrades to existing machines going back to 2005.
Speaking at an event held during Farm Progress Show, Than Hartsock, the company’s vice president of Precision Upgrades, said the program will allow it to roll out new technologies to customers quicker.
“Increasingly the tech stack is evolving, to the point that we can't apply the tech to machines quick enough for the farmer to take advantage of it,” he said. “This way, we can move farmers along more quickly.”
What can a Deere owner upgrade to? Well, that depends.
If you have a 1700-series planter dating back to 2005, you can upgrade to MaxEmerge 5e — the company’s lowest-cost entry point for electric drive — by simply switching out each individual row unit. From there, options such as mechanical or pneumatic closing wheels, active pneumatic downforce, or even color-coded hydraulic grips are available.
If you want something that promises more precision, like Exact Rate or Exact Shot — which uses sensors and robotics to place starter fertilizer right onto seeds as they are planted — you’ll need a planter that already has the electrical and mechanical infrastructure in place, like a 2018 model 1770, 1790/95, or a DB44 to DB90 planter.
Also, you will need an upgraded G5 in-cab display, StarFire 7000 Receiver that provides an RTK signal for better field accuracy, and an account with John Deere Operations Center to stream your machine and field data.
Sprayer upgrades will also depend on what you already have.
For example, if you’re just looking for individual nozzle control, you can upgrade an R4030 to R4060 sprayer going back to 2014, and even add upgraded LED lighting on the boom or vehicle.
But if you want the latest and greatest sprayer technology, such as See and Spray, you will need at least a 2018 model R4030 to R4060, and a boom length of 120 feet.
LED lighting upgrades are available for combines dating back to 2012, but if you want cross auger shutoff or an adjustable auger spout, you will need an X9 or S700 combine from at least 2018.
There are also tractor precision upgrades available like rear implement ethernet, which enables high-bandwidth communication between the tractor and implement — for 7R, 8R and 8RT tractors going back to 2014. But again, this requires an upgraded display, receiver and account with John Deere Operations Center.
If want to see what upgrade your machine is eligible for, the company has created an online upgrade configuration tool that you can use. All you need is the machine’s serial number, model and year.
“These tech-based solutions are going to drive higher profitability, but we are also seeing development cycles shortened,” Hartsock said. “Think about it. New phones come out every year with new features you didn’t even think were possible. Same thing is happening in ag. We’re able to leverage these tech cycles to keep adding more precision, more control, more automation and, eventually, more autonomy.”
Hartsock said this “new approach” of allowing farmers to upgrade their machines more easily is not a response to softening new equipment sales. The July report from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers showed four-wheel-drive tractor sales up 1.2% over the previous year, and up 36.2% year-to-date. Self-propelled combine sales in July were up 10.6% over the previous year, and up 41.2% year-to-date.
There are no statistics available for planter or sprayer sales.
Upgrading an existing machine, though, can come with some performance trade-offs.
“When it is designed out of the factory with the upgrades, this is where deep integration can make it a better experience for the grower,” Hartsock said. “But if you think of just a few points of integration or value, then you can expand to other models.”
Upgrades are available for planters and sprayers for the 2024 season. For more information, visit deere.com.
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