Over the past few decades, technology on board farm equipment has advanced by leaps and bounds. However, John Deere is about to take a big leap forward. The manufacturer has teamed up with Starlink to bring satellite internet to its range of tractors, combines and sprayers.
John Deere intends to take advantage of Starlink's satellite constellation to provide connectivity to remote farms. The US company tested several alternatives before choosing Elon Musk's company. The choice of Starlink was said to be based on the speed at which its satellites transmit signals from low-Earth orbit.
According to Starlink's post on its X (Twitter) page, John Deere will begin offering satellite Internet access on both new and existing models of its self-propelled agricultural machines. However, specific pricing and timelines for the rollout have not yet been named.
The green giant said that the connectivity option via Starlink for its combines, tractors and sprayers will be launched this year in Brazil and areas of the US without internet. However, more details on the timeline are not yet available.
Another important consideration is how the antennas developed by SpaceX will be adapted for installation on John Deere machines. According to WSJ, more ruggedized and dust-proof versions will be developed and mounted on cab roofs, specifically designed for use in planting and harvesting environments.
While the initial goal is to launch the Starlink system in Brazil and the US, John Deere promises that it will appear in other countries as well. It wouldn't be unusual for one of the first expansions to be South America. Especially when you consider that agriculture also plays an important role in countries like Argentina and Uruguay. SpaceX's satellite internet isn't available there yet, but it could theoretically arrive as early as this year.
According to the company's website, Starlink will be officially available in Argentina from the second quarter of 2024. Its neighbors in Uruguay will get it in the third quarter. In both markets, John Deere has a historical presence that can be leveraged to provide a technological breakthrough.
The use of satellite tools on tractors, combines and sprayers is not new or unique to John Deere. The vast majority of equipment manufacturers offer precision farming solutions. These include autopilot systems, active implement guidance or satellite-based flagships.
However, the lack of web connectivity on plots of land far from land towers is an issue that makes it difficult to access John Deere's digital services. According to the manufacturer, 30 % of crop acreage in the US lacks wireless Internet access, and in countries such as Brazil, the figure is as high as 70 %.
The company intends to remedy the situation with Starlink as part of a deeper business strategy. By the end of this decade, John Deere intends to generate 10 % of its annual revenue by offering software services.