Deere's autonomous tractor rolls to harvest big data

STORY: Big data may be the new crop of choice for farm equipment manufacturers…

Though some farmers have mixed feelings about embracing big tech in their fields.

John Deere is releasing its first autonomous tillage tractor, which uses artificial intelligence and agronomic data to precisely map and plow fields to prep for planting.

Julian Sanchez is vice president of emerging technologies at the company:

“Agronomic data is relevant to how farmers make decisions about how they farm. So that's data that’s usually related to the quality of the job that’s being done on the farm.”

Smart farming is not a new phenomenon, but several economic factors are driving investment in connected equipment…

Skyrocketing grain prices, labor shortages, low crop output and increasing demand have all exacerbated the global food crisis.

SANCHEZ: "Ultimately farmers are trying to grow food to feed the entire world, to feed a growing population, but they also are trying to do it in the most efficient manner possible.”

Agricultural equipment companies view precision agricultural technology as viable solutions to helping farmers keep costs down while increasing crop production.

Ron Heck is a fourth-generation Iowa farmer.

“If we can save money on our inputs, or save money on operating equipment, save fuel and do it faster and more efficiently that is a win-win situation. Unfortunately, this technology is very expensive.”

Deere’s self-driving tractor is set to hit the market for $500,000 later in 2022 and while the company has declined to reveal the pricing model for the autonomous software, executives have said that a subscription model is one option…

The company’s green machines are retrofitted with cameras and sensors that collect and store agronomic data about position tracking, which can be useful for farmers for the following year’s planting season.

But farmers have long voiced their concerns about data privacy because of the blurred lines around data sharing.

“Farmers have some concerns there, there’s no doubt about it…”

Grant Kimberley is senior director of market development at the Iowa Soybean Association.

“I think it’s been a constant discussion point and question for several years now about how data is being utilized and who owns that data.”

Deere said farmers own their data and the company doesn't share data with third parties without farmers' permission.