John Deere is setting itself up to be a "world-leading" robotics and artificial intelligence company, and its autonomous offerings will develop quickly, according to company leadership. 

Deere hosted the Leaps Unlocked event May 26 for investors and customers to talk about its technology. John May, Deere's CEO, kicked off the presentations with the observation that the days of abundant resources and farming inputs are over. Since Deere’s 2020 analyst day, May says the company has reorganized the business, centralized technology development and overhauled capital allocations to skew more investments toward differentiated solutions that deliver more customer value.

Jahmy Hindman, Deere’s chief technology officer, says Deere intentionally developed proprietary technology — rather than create partnerships — because many of its end markets required customization and the company valued the customer experience. The integration of technology with hard iron and Deere's dealer network is what differentiates Deere from competitors, according to Deanna Kovar, Deere's vice president of production and precision ag systems.

The technology Deere is using to power its autonomous 8R tractor will eventually be deployed to the entire fleet doing other jobs, and it will scale quickly and deeply across the install base, according to Igino Cafiero, CEO of Bear Flag Robotics, an autonomous driving technology startup acquired by Deere in 2021. Cafiero says Deere has planned out a fully autonomous corn and soybean production system by 2030.

“That means spring tillage, planting, spraying, harvest and fall tillage all done autonomously,” Cafiero says.

To accelerate adoption of autonomy, Deere plans to include autonomous sensors in the base configuration of the 8R tractor in the next few years. Cafiero says that means a farmer will be able to unlock autonomous operations with the tap of a screen. Willy Pell, Deere's vice president of autonomy and new ventures, says Deere’s goal is to have an autonomy kit on every large tractor that ships. 

Deere is shipping its autonomous 8R tractor for tillage, See & Spray Ultimate and Combine Advisor this year. Jorge Heraud, Deere's vice president of automation and autonomy, says Deere is also doing advance testing with customers on 4 additional products based on Sense & Act technology — 2 for harvest, 1 for planting and 1 for construction.

The products use custom high dynamic range cameras, edge computing in the form of rugged processors on the machines and its machine learning platform. The 3 technologies paired with the large fleet of Deere machines in use worldwide gives Deere the advantage of scale.

“We’re able to develop new robotics and artificial intelligence products much faster than anyone in the industry, and this sets us up to unlock the $150 billion of incremental addressable market,” Heraud says. “We are now set up to become a world-leading robotics and artificial intelligence company.”

Deere is also tying autonomy and electrification of farm machinery together. Aaron Wetzel, Deere's vice president of small ag and turf production systems, says electrification will help support autonomy capabilities because all of the control systems can be integrated electronically.

Wetzel says Deere plans to offer electric offerings in turf and compact tractors, and an autonomous electric-powered agricultural tractor.

John Deere Operations Center

Deere’s Operations Center will become a digital twin of the farm, a data set that will create smarter equipment and better outcomes for farmers. Doug Sauder, Deere's director of product management, says the digital twin will enable future guidance solutions as fleet data from tens of thousands of machines will train next-generation algorithms. In the future, Deere will release planning tools that provide more insights about field readiness and time needed to complete jobs.

“The future of the operations center is to turbocharge its capabilities with data science and analytics,” Sauder says.

Watch the full Leaps Unlocked presentation below.

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