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John Deere and Starlink: What to know

Later this year, John Deere owners will be able to get Starlink equipped to their machines.

Chris Torres

January 16, 2024

2 Min Read
A John Deere combine with satellite connection
STARLINK CONNECTED: Large ag machines from John Deere, such as this combine, will have the ability to be connected to Starlink satellite internet later this year. John Deere

Describing it as “an industry first,” John Deere has chosen Starlink — the brainchild of Elon Musk — to provide satellite-based high-speed internet for its machines to better connect farms that have internet connectivity issues.

Rolling out later this year, producers will be able to visit a John Deere dealership and get a “ruggedized” Starlink terminal installed on their machine for internet service, so long as they also have a 4G LTE JDLink modem already installed.

Deere says its solution will fully enable autonomy, real-time data sharing, remote diagnostics, enhanced self-repair solutions and machine-to-machine communication in places where cellular internet communication lags.

Deere has not released how much it will cost a producer to have the equipment installed, nor how much the service will cost. The equipment will consist of a Starlink receiver — which Mike Kool, John Deere’s senior product manager for connected fleet, describes as looking like a pizza box — the modem, if one needs installed; brackets; and power supply.

Kool says the Starlink system will provide internet once a machine is unable to connect through Wi-Fi or cellular connection. He says the initial rollout will be aftermarket upgrades on new or older machines that have a 4G modem installed, including large ag tractors, combines and sprayers.

Kool estimates that 30% of the U.S. is underserved by high-speed or cellular connection. In some of these areas, producers don’t have the ability to do remote diagnostics with a dealer.

Some producers even have to drive miles away from the farm to get a cellular connection to share agronomic data with other machines in their fleet, an inconvenience that he says costs producers time and potentially money.

“That’s where this solution really helps us to enable our customers to connect their machines where they have not before,” Kool says, adding that initial rollout will be in the U.S. and Brazil, where he estimates that 80% of farms are underserved by high-speed internet and cell connections.

Kool says Deere first started courting Starlink 18 months ago during an industry event at the company’s ISG Test Farm near Des Moines, Iowa. There, 40 companies responded to the company’s request for proposals for satellite communication services.

In the end, Kool says Deere chose Starlink because of its satellite internet bandwidth, low latency — the time it takes for data to be transferred between the satellites to its destination — and the company’s already existing satellite internet infrastructure.

He says the company has been testing and validating data on the Starlink system for at least a year.

It is estimated that Starlink, a division of SpaceX, has 4,500 satellites in orbit with the eventual goal of 42,000. Starlink says its satellite-based internet service is designed to provide high-speed internet to virtually any corner of the world.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

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