Farm Progress

Looking for the next advancement

How OEMs are pivoting to capitalize on the latest technology

Andy Castillo

May 21, 2024

2 Min Read
John Deere and GUSS Automation’s fully electric autonomous herbicide orchard sprayer, Electric GUSS
EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY: John Deere and GUSS Automation collaborated to offer a fully electric autonomous herbicide orchard sprayer called Electric GUSS.Courtesy of John Deere

Modern farming looks different than it did a few decades ago. Emerging precision technology is driving innovation across the agricultural landscape. And while iron remains integral for just about every brand, Mike Mills, Reinke’s director of sustainability solutions, says digital infrastructure has become invaluable.

“We’ve moved from primarily a steel company with a little bit of software to a primarily software company with a little bit of steel,” Mills says.

Farm machinery manufacturers everywhere are doing the same. AGCO, for example, recently launched an entirely new aftermarket tech company, PTx Trimble, to retrofit existing machines with cutting-edge precision agricultural technology.

“We don’t have any iron in our business unit,” says Seth Crawford, senior vice president and general manager of PTx. “That’s one of the ways we’re able to focus on [retrofitting] other brands that are out there. No one has to buy our product. They’re buying their iron from someone else.”

This is a new approach that’s being launched into a rapidly advancing marketplace. Tech that was novel a decade ago now comes standard on entry-level equipment. Meanwhile, some of those older, now-antiquated machines are still working farmland.

PTx Trimble aims to span this gap by enabling farmers to update their older machines. Its proprietary technology isn’t steel, and because of that, it’ll need to constantly innovate to stay a step ahead, Crawford says.

One refrain Crawford often hears is that selling future technology will become more difficult because new equipment now has the latest technology. “That is only true if we fail to innovate,” he says.

Investing in software

John Deere took a similar step in 2017 with the purchase of its ag tech software company Blue River Technology. Darren Havens, John Deere’s director of production and precision marketing for North America, says the company is continuing to invest in both hardware and software.

“We started back in 1995, when we started collecting harvest data using software capabilities through GPS on harvesters,” he says. John Deere also is open to partnerships and joint ventures to leverage market knowledge and reach. Havens cites Deere’s recent partnership with GUSS Automation on a fully electric autonomous herbicide orchard sprayer, Electric GUSS, as an example.

As technologies such as artificial intelligence make their way onto farms, Steve Nadherny, vice president of government affairs at CNH Industrial, says his brand is looking for ways to apply them with “a different twist” to farming.

“We’re always looking for new technologies,” Nadherny says. “Whatever we do, we’re trying to make sure the farmer is more efficient as well.”

Broadly, the industry is looking to technology to span a projected skilled labor gap. Most emerging technology “is really geared toward simplifying more productivity, more efficiency and streamlining some of the processes that we had to rely on skilled labor for in the past,” says Nathan Graham, a product training specialist at Case IH.

About the Author(s)

Andy Castillo

Andy Castillo started his career in journalism about a decade ago as a television news cameraperson and producer before transitioning to a regional newspaper covering western Massachusetts, where he wrote about local farming.

Between military deployments with the Air Force and the news, he earned an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Bay Path University, building on the English degree he earned from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He's a multifaceted journalist with a diverse skill set, having previously worked as an EMT and firefighter, a nightclub photographer, caricaturist, features editor at the Greenfield Recorder and a writer for GoNomad Travel. 

Castillo splits his time between the open road and western Massachusetts with his wife, Brianna, a travel nurse who specializes in pediatric oncology, and their rescue pup, Rio. When not attending farm shows, Castillo enjoys playing music, snowboarding, writing, cooking and restoring their 1920 craftsman bungalow.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like