An AMS manager in Illinois shares his early experience and tactics for selling Deere’s new telematic technology.

Much has been made the last few years about the potential of telematics allowing specialists to remotely diagnose precision farming problems and simplify transfer of field information from machinery to the office.

Last summer, John Deere unveiled its Wireless Data Transfer platform and this spring, dealers are getting their first chance to sell the technology, which eliminates the need for manual transfer of farm data. The subscription-based platform is available as an upgrade to JDLink Ultimate with Remote Display Access.

Precision Farming Dealer recently talked with Lindon Gord, AMS manager with DeKalb Implement Co., in Rockford, Ill., about his approach to selling Wireless Data Transfer to customers.

“Right now, I’m targeting customers who I know will pay for the service,” Gord says. “The ideal customer is one with a large operation and multiple people working on the farm, because the more machines they have, the simpler it will be to transfer that data remotely.”

A selling point for the system, Gord says, is that planting prescriptions can be uploaded and easily shared with seed retailers. This simplifies the sometimes tedious process of making sure the right thumb drive with the prescription for a particular field makes it to the tractor cab.

“I tell customers that we can upload those prescriptions to the machine from an office,” Gord says. “Having that data flow back with planting maps, farmers can also share that information with their crop insurance agent to report planted acres.”

The benefit for precision technicians and salespeople is they can remotely see the customer’s display, rather than having to drive out to the farm to make a service call. Gord says they can also receive display error codes via email and remotely send software updates to the field.

“It’s all about real-time diagnostics and remote fixes,” he says. “Everything is so time critical that this is a big time saver.”

Customers have the option of sharing agronomic data, but it’s not something Gord requests from farmers, because the dealership doesn’t provide agronomy services.

“As a rule of thumb, we request access to the machinery data to be able to troubleshoot problems and keep customers running,” he says. “Agronomic data is separate and we set up customers so we don’t see any of it. It’s just like financial information.”

So far, Gord says he’s had a 15-20% take rate on Wireless Data Transfer, mostly on newer equipment. Most new Deere machinery is already setup with Wireless Data Transfer capabilities, so it’s a matter of selling the activation through the customer’s JDLink account.

This can be an economical option for existing customers, Gord says. He installed the system on one customer’s tractors and prorated the charge for Wireless Data Transfer, based on the time remaining on the farmer’s JDLink subscription.

“It came out to about $60 a tractor,” Gord says. “But if it’s a brand new subscription, it would have been about $700 per tractor.”

Eventually, Gord says he’d like to see the subscriptions sold on data usage, similar to cell phone data plans, rather than a per machine cost.

“I think it’s a bit expensive, and right now, the price is based on the number of terminals a customer has,” he says. “If a customer uses a combine for 2 months and it sits in the shed, he’s still paying for the system, but not utilizing any data.”