John Deer has advised Australian farmers to take advantage of the metrics they have available. Now that digital agriculture has become more prevalent in Australia, the agriculture machinery giant has given a tip for farmers to become ‘smarter’ when it comes to using their data.
Already this kind of technology has been used to massive success in the United States. American agriculture experts have taken a data-driven approach to crop management that assists in maximising crop yields and optimises their supply management systems while reducing food, water, and chemical waste.
With the push for improved yields from existing farms to feed a steadily growing population, Australian farmers can streamline their processes with the help of modern agricultural technology. Now everything from tractors to harvesters, irrigation systems and feeders can collect, upload relevant data and put it at the farmer’s disposal. This technology can track trends, collect real-time data, and fine-tune existing processes, adding elements of automation to the farming process.
It is expected that this technology will help increase the yield from existing farmlands, use pesticides ethically, optimise farm equipment, manage supply chain issues and more. These abilities are particularly important, with food production in Australia expected to increase significantly by 2050 to feed a predicted population of 35.9 Million in 2050.
Using Data Effectively
John Deere Australia’s precision agriculture manager Benji Blevin spoke about the importance of collecting data, and acting based on the results. Mr Blevin said farmers should not “collect data for data’s sake” without beneficial systems in place.
While many Australian farmers have data-gathering measures available, they have not optimised their processes accordingly. Mr Blevin made the comparison that a farmer would never use a machine that hadn’t been set up correctly, so the same should go with machines not yet set up for the “digital ecosystem”.
“It is important to take the time to set up your digital assets so you are collecting the right information for your needs,” Mr Blevin said.
“Setting up boundaries, guidance lines, chemicals, varieties and any other key inputs before heading into the paddock will save time and enable more accurate collection of data which in turn means it’s usable and actionable.”
Mr Blevins said a robust data-collection system can be automated to give farmers access to real-time, valuable information at their fingertips.
“With automation, you remove and simplify the touchpoints required to collect and transfer data from the machine (in Deere’s case, to its Operations Center),” he said.
“Your data is updated to the Cloud every 30 seconds while you focus on the work in the paddock.”
Once those data systems are set up and automated correctly, Mr Blevin added that the next step is actually understanding the data and using it to make productive changes on the farm.
“The next step is understanding that data, using it to drive decisions and applying these on-farm to achieve efficiency and profitability gains,” he said.
“If you can identify that a field has 20 per cent yield variability, you know that there’s money to be made there, and you can focus on it.”
“Another way to extract even more value is to bring in a specialised skill set, such as your agronomist, farm advisor, or financial advisor, and allow them to access and analyse information such as crop records to make strategic recommendations.”
Aussie Farmers Not Completly Sold On ‘The New’ Way Of Things
Several Australian farmers were dubious of releasing their personal analytics and opted to steer clear of the technology when it was first introduced. However, Mr Blevin said John Deere had utilised in-depth cybersecurity systems to ensure all data is protected.
“To us, it is critical customers control their own data and make the decisions about who can access it,” he said.
The global Argricultural Machinery giant is still repairing its relationship with consumers after incidents regarding the ‘right to repair’. Until earlier this year, John Deere was caught in a protest with farmers globally for their rigid repair process which saw even minor repairs needing to be done by a “registered” John Deere mechanic. Failure to do so would cause a system lockdown to stop farmers from fixing their machinery on their own.
Several farmers risked voiding their warranty by hacking the program with torrent software to work around these forced machine shutdowns. In February 2021, John Deere Australia responded by providing farmers with the right to repair the company’s range of tractors and machinery but drew the line at modification.
John Deere’s Australian/New Zealand managing director, Luke Chandler clarified that the company was glad to allow home repairs, but could not condone unregulated tinkering.
“We continue to support our customers’ right to service and maintain their equipment. Not only do we support that right, we make a lot of tools, videos and support for them to do that if that is the choice they make,” he said.
“The misunderstanding is around modification. What we don’t support is access to and modifying embedded codes within the machines.”
Most recently (June, 24) Deere released that their reasoning behind this decision was the safety of agricultural workers. Mr Chandler said that most repairs could be done without a software update, allowing farmers to have broad, but not total access to self-repairs.
“On average, less than 2 per cent of all repairs require a software update, so the majority of repairs a farmer can make, can be made easily,” he said.
“We build high-quality equipment customers can depend on and have a network of highly trained technicians to support them if they choose – and the tools, parts and repair information available to customers if they chose to repair or maintain their own machine.”
This process is yet to meet its conclusion, with several farmers still not happy with the new restrictions placed on their machinery.