How tractor seller John Deere became a technology company

The evolution of John Deere - from selling tractors to becoming an agritech data platform

Agriculture is undergoing a revolution. IoT sensors are making it easier to grow more crop with less, while drones and robots are bringing more automation to the industry. While you wouldn’t traditionally label tractor maker John Deere as a technology company, the 181-year-old manufacturer is evolving into exactly that, Silicon Valley presence and all.

Since 1837, John Deere has made and sold tractors and other agricultural machinery such as cotton pickers and combine harvesters. In 2018, the company is transforming itself and its products into sensor-loaded, data-fuelled, AI-powered agritech platforms making farming smarter and more efficient.

 

From selling tractors to becoming a technology company

“Cornfields have approximately thirty thousand plants in an acre,” says Than Hartsock, Director for John Deere Precision Agriculture Solutions. “Today we manage all those thirty thousand plants on that acre about the same; we assume they're all at the same growth stage, and they all need the same nutrients, and they're all the same shape.”

“Tomorrow through computer vision, AI, and smart machines, we are going to diagnose that plant is responding to that soil in this way, and therefore we should treat it like this.”

John Deere’s acquisition of California machine learning startup Blue River Technology late last year brought the company to the attention of many technology media outlets. But the company’s transformation into a data-driven company started with the acquisition of NavCom Technology back in 1999.

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