In mid January, John Deere did something neither it nor any other farm equipment manufacturer had ever done before (at least as far as anyone can remember). It took one of its combines, an S770, to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This is the place all the tech companies go to show off the latest in cutting edge tech stuff; things often more aptly described as gizmos that nobody really knew they needed.
So the combine might arguably have been the talk of the event. Part of the reason for that is given the public’s general lack of knowledge about what really happens on a farm, many apparently didn’t even know what it was.
“For many visitors and representatives of the tech media, John Deere’s appearance at the world’s-biggest technology show was initially a mystery,” reads the write up in the ‘John Deere Journal’. “At first many didn’t understand what they were seeing when they came upon the green and yellow machines and displays.”
But the reality is, that Deere combine—or one from any of the major brands—certainly deserved to be there, given the level of technology built into it. It’s become a given that the digital capabilities of today’s farm machines are what is starting to become the driving factor in generating sales of new equipment.
A couple of hundred miles away at the exact same the public was puzzling over what a combine was at the CES in Vegas, I heard that acknowledgement come from some of Case IH’s senior marketing staff. I was at their new product introduction in Phoenix.
If you just want brute horsepower any tractor built in the last decade or two will provide that, but new equipment buyers are now looking for more, those Case marketers explained. And all of the major brands seem to have heard that message loud and clear. Technology all across the current spectrum of new ag equipment is beyond impressive.
AEM, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the industry association that represents all the major brands, along with manufacturers in the automotive sector, recently published a piece that highlights that fact.
“It is often said that the only thing you can count on is change,” reads the article. “That statement certainly holds true when looking into the future of the agriculture industry.”
Recently, AEM commissioned a study to look into the future impact some broad trends will have on equipment manufacturers, dealers and farmers,” it goes on “A common theme coming out of these discussions and findings is that precision farming, big data, and artificial intelligence could have as much of a revolutionary impact on our industry as mechanization in the late 1800’s or the advancement of seed genetics over the past century. It is an exciting time to be in agriculture.”
But no matter how smart modern machines become, AEM’s research has shown that buyers won’t commit to bringing home fancy new machines no matter how fully they’re packed with artificial intelligence unless there is a return on investment. And as the “big data” sector continues to get bigger, it’s still unclear how exactly all that information collected by machines in the field will get coordinated and processed. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s unclear which company will come to dominate that area.
“Today a farmer buys a piece of equipment from a local dealer, purchases crop inputs from a local retailer and may tap into a few advisors to assist in making agronomic and business decisions,” the AEM article goes on. “Our research shows that the role of ‘most trusted advisor,’ one who can bridge the gap between agronomic information and precision farming hardware, is still up for grabs. This provides a tremendous opportunity for AEM members to respond to farmers’ needs for services with new product offerings, ownership models, technical support and other pay-for-service programs.”
Look for the data support and analysis sector to become a very active battleground.