There won’t be any robotic tractors in the iconic green and yellow livery any time soon but John Deere is flagging an accelerated journey from automation to autonomy.
John Deere Limited managing director (Australia/New Zealand) Peter Wanckel was a keynote speaker at the Henty field days on September 20 for the brand’s celebration of 100 years of tractor manufacture.
Mr Wanckel said the industry was on the cusp of exciting technological times.
“The increased use of (telemetry) technology will gain momentum with farmers able to control and monitor machinery from a mobile device,’’ he said.
“We do see an accelerating move to more automation which will ultimately lead to full autonomy.
“The focus is a stepped process to get to that full autonomy – a lot of our focus is on developing those automated solutions to give us the confidence and enable future autonomy.’’
Mr Wanckel pointed to current examples that gave operators control from a mobile device.
“In 100 years time, productivity will be delivered through easier to operate, more precise and smaller machines,’’ he said.
In 100 years, productivity will be delivered through easier-to-operate, more precise and smaller machines.Peter Wanckel
“We expect they will be small, independent and autonomous – they will look nothing like the large tractors of today.’’
Australia’s mature farm machinery market represents just two per cent of John Deere’s total revenue.
But, Australian farmers are recognised around the world as being the most innovative, early adopters of technology and at the forefront of identifying and developing new farming practices.
With global population growth projected to hit 10 billion by 2050, increases in farm productivity are required.
“For us to do that, we will need to look at new ways of doing things for a stepped change in productivity to meet the food production requirements,’’ he said.
Mr Wanckel said the history of innovation started at John Deere in 1837 with a different shaped plough for the prairie soils of the US.
He said the first self-propelled combine harvester, model 55, was introduced by the company in 1947.
The Australian manufactured tractor, the Chamberlain, was acquired by John Deere in 1949.
“A big change in 1960 was the new generation of power, or the introduction of four and six-cylinder tractors to provide extra horsepower.”
Mr Wanckel said future productivity improvements would be driven by precision agriculture.