Earlier this year, at the AMC Engineering Conference in Waterloo, Iowa, Jeremy Leifker, manager of product strategy and marketing with John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group, gave a presentation called “Digitalization —The Next Level of Corn and Soybean Production.” He talked about a new digital platform that is wirelessly connecting agronomy data with machine data to facilitate real-time adjustments to equipment. It’s a concept that OEMs are embracing industrywide, each offering their own spin. John Deere’s platform is called John Deere Operations Center.
Give us a summary of your talk.
Looking at the whole digital data space, one important area is about making sure machines are up and available to execute fieldwork. To farmers, the way they look at it is: I need to plant my crop, fertilize it, protect it, and harvest it in a timely and productive way to increase my bottom line. The reason why a machine is out there planting is to put a seed in a certain place, at the right depth, at the right spacing, and make sure it’s the right hybrid and the right population. Equipment can impact the quality of that work.
But a related area [in producing a crop] is ag decision support. So, what seed? What population? What fertilizer program? What chemical crop protection? That’s where ag retailers and agronomists play a critical role in advising on those decisions and coming up with a plan for the grower. What we’re doing is to connect all of those pieces so that decisions made about the crop can be executed on machines with a push of a button.
What would that look like?
With our system, John Deere Operations Center, it starts with a grower, who determines “who are my trusted advisers that I connect with?” The grower creates those connections in John Deere Operations Center. When they create that connection — and let’s say it’s with their agronomist — the file sharing can begin, and the growers define what level of sharing they want to have. For example, if they want to accept prescription files and be able to send those straight to the machine, the system can enable that.
How does this compare with what was done in the past?
In the past, an agronomist may make a recommendation and then print it out, put it in a binder or on a USB stick, and someone would have to load those recommendations to the tractor display to execute the fieldwork. Oftentimes both the retailer and grower are taking action on that land. The most common approach is the grower will do their own planting and harvesting, but in the middle of those tasks, the retailers are handling the fertilizer and crop protection. What we’re enabling with the John Deere Operations Center is to connect all the layers of information — from the grower who did the planting to the retailers who did the fertilizer and pesticide applications. Those are all important layers of information about what was done where, with yield being the final score card. That’s why we’ve created an open platform that enables those layers to be shared so that decisions can be made on how to make that field more productive.
How does digitizing and sharing of data work for farmers?
It starts by wirelessly connecting machines using JDLink Connect. Next, information seamlessly passes back and forth between the grower and their advisers with John Deere Operations Center. Before these technologies existed, agronomic plans were made in the wintertime, then executed in season. People then waited until harvest to assess the results and move right into next year’s planning cycle. This spring was an example where weather events rapidly caused plans to change. Utilizing technology, growers and their agronomists adjusted in-field jobs affected by weather events. The result was fast, economical decisions that had an impact in the field.
What’s your advice to farmers? What are the steps to get digitized?
Technology is changing and developing quickly. Farmers need to ask what it is that they want to do differently in their operation — where can that additional level of information take their operation? When they know that, they can identify and implement the technology they need. My advice is around what you do next — connecting fieldwork, connecting people and making data driven decisions.
Start by identifying whether or not your equipment has the capability to wirelessly connect. That connection enables the machine to receive rate prescriptions and machine setup work orders, enables service adviser remote, along with the ability for as-applied information to move to the next step of your crop cycle. The wireless connection is the first step in making sure fieldwork is being done efficiently and accurately.
The next step is to consider who you want involved in your operation and how they are connected. This could be your operators, dealer, agronomist, custom applicator and other software systems you use to run your farm. In John Deere Operations Center, you can individually establish and control their level of sharing permissions. One example I mentioned earlier is the relationship with your agronomist. If you establish that agronomist as your partner in the John Deere Operations Center, they can digitally share field prescriptions that you assign to the machine in the field.
If you choose to share back with your agronomist, they can receive the specifics of what variety was planted where, when it was planted and at what population. That’s key information that enables better crop scouting to take care of the crop after it was planted. If someone performs work on your farm, such as a custom applicator, they can share what was applied where and at what rate. That’s important information that drives yield.
Lastly, leverage the information for every field activity to understand the correlation between yield and profit. While yield and profit information are the final score, the layers of information about what was done at the field or zone level often provide insights into what can be done differently to drive better outcomes.