Once upon a time, not long ago farm equipment dealerships were all about iron. Walk in the front door and all you’d see were oil filters, batteries and new machine posters. Out back, in the service department, it was all oil and grease. But that was then.
As I spoke with John Schmeiser last week, he’s the executive VP and CEO of the newly-formed Western Equipment Dealers Association, we discussed how the current trend is for dealerships to evolve into “full solution” retailers. Walk into a dealership now and you’re likely to find new-age staffers like agronomists and data management specialists occupying front offices along with the usual suspects.
That evolution is evident with manufacturers, too. At John Deere’s new product launch in August, the brand brought in a U.S. dealership’s agronomist and one of her customers, an early-adopter farmer, to meet with the media and talk about the value of those expanded retail services. Blend that with Deere’s cutting-edge digital products and there are benefits to be gained for everyone, they said.
Executives at all the brands now seem to agree the future of ag equipment manufacturing and retailing is heading decidedly that way. And digital technology will be at the heart of the evolution.
Today, AGCO announced it’s ramping up its pursuit of digital superiority, with a plan to push the boundaries of its existing FUSE technologies offering pretty significantly.
To do that, AGCO will be working with Appareo Systems, a technology firm based in Fargo, N.D., to develop a new, better and expanded digital component for its equipment—and for its dealers to offer to their customers. Here’s how the new partnership was described in the press release.
“The joint venture will develop technology for advanced machine control systems, sensing applications, automated subsystems, machine prognostics and machine health monitoring, specific protein and grain control systems, and development of innovative electromechanical devices and systems. This will provide AGCO and Appareo Systems a key vehicle to deliver advanced technology and equipment management solutions, supporting a variety of crop types and markets globally.”
In June, Saskatchewan-based Seed Hawk (under Väderstad ownership) revealed it too will be working with Appareo, who will provide iPad-based software and control systems for its drills and planter.
“Global agriculture is going through a period of revolutionary change,” said Eric Hansotia, senior vice president, global harvesting, Advanced Technology Solutions at AGCO. “The need for more advanced electronic technology focused on data collection, wireless communication, advanced sensors/sensor fusion and intelligent machine control has grown exponentially. As we continue to build on AGCO’s Fuse strategy, we intend to leverage the new partnership with Appareo as a key driver in building the most adept and most open data system available to the industry. As the agricultural industry shifts, there is a greater need for more advanced technology, and we anticipate that this partnership will provide breakthrough innovation making our customers more profitable while supporting their mixed fleet operations.”
At a “Technology Summit” organized by John Deere a couple of years ago, one of the green brand’s senior executives made it clear that in his eyes the horsepower race in agriculture was over, and the digital race was about to begin.
That assertion seems even more certain today than it did then. And with all the major brands now well clear of the technology starting gate, all we can do is sit back and watch from the stands to see who will take the lead in digital product development through the backstretch.