In the last couple of years, there has been no shortage of digital technology announcements from the major ag equipment manufacturers. Auto guidance and telematics have been high their agendas. On July 9th, AGCO made what may be the most significant announcement it ever has on that front. It unveiled its Fuse Technologies concept, what it describes as a “global precision farming initiative”.
Reminiscent of the way John Deere first introduced its FarmSight digital strategy in 2011, AGCO’s press release introducing Fuse Technologies was more of a statement of its intentions, rather than a new product release. In fact, it had no new products ready for release at all. The purpose of the press release was to let farmers know where the company was going, digitally speaking.
This past week I had a chance to interview Matt Rushing, AGCO Vice President of Product Management, ATS and Electronics Functional Group, about what Fuse really is and where the company intends to take its digital strategy.
“The target of Fuse is to identify those softwares (that farmers currently use and like) and provide connections to those softwares,” he said. Fusing—if you like—all the digital components of farm operation and management into one fully connected system to make farms more efficient.
Creating a fully integrated digital platform that incorporates all software and programs used on the farm is what John Deere’s FarmSight aims to create as well. And although Rushing says AGCO’s Fuse Technologies will incorporate some similar aspects, there will be one pretty major difference between the two approaches.
John Deere’s aim with FarmSight is to create a totally “green” suite of software and programs itself, making Deere dealers a kind of one-stop shop where farmers can go to get not just the machines they need, but a full suite of digital systems as well. At a media event in Des Moines, Iowa, last year, Deere executives pointed out that their digital offerings will work in a multi-brand fleet. But farmers who want to maximize the potential of Deere’s digital offerings need to be running Deere equipment as well.
That’s where AGCO says its Fuse Technologies will differ. Rushing says the company did a lot of talking to farmers and realizes many don’t want to go to a single-brand machinery fleet. Some like to pick and choose their equipment from all the brands, finding the features that suit their operations best. So AGCO’s future digital products will be built to accomodate that.
In fact, Rushing points out, AGCO itself is made up of multiple brands, which it acquired as the company grew over the past two decades, and some of them have very different digital systems.
Trying to create an all-encompassing digital platform that communicates well with other programs might sound like an impossible task to some who can’t even get their home computer to communicate with their smartphone. Rushing agreed it may sound that way, but the overall trend in the agricultural electronics industry is already moving toward standardization, so the AGCO concept won’t be as impossible as it seems, although I wouldn’t want to underestimate the challenges.
The first challenge AGCO’s software engineers face is actually within the company itself. Rushing wants all of the different digital products the company offers with its core brands to be standardized, something he says is underway now.
Expect to see several new digital products be introduced within AGCO’s Fuse Technologies concept later this year. Rushing wouldn’t say much about them, other than there are several on the way. The company expects to make a major introduction at Agritechnica in November.