US agricultural manufacturer John Deere has always been a pioneering company. Its eponymous founder personally designed, built and sold some of the first commercial steel ploughs. These made the lives of settlers moving into the Midwest during the middle of the 19 century much easier and established the company as an American legend.
Often at the forefront of innovation, it is no surprise that it has embraced Big Data enthusiastically – assisting pioneers with the taming of the virtual wild frontier just as it did with the real one.
In recent years, it has focused efforts on providing Big Data and Internet of Things solutions to let farmers (and in the case of their industrial division with the black and yellow logo, builders) to make informed decisions based on real-time analysis of captured data.
So in this post I want to take a look at some of John Deere’s innovations in the virtual realm, and how they are leading to change which is said to be “revolutionizing” the world of farming.
The world’s population is growing rapidly, which means there is always going to be an increasing demand for more food. With the idea of genetically modified food still not appealing to public appetites, increasing the efficiency of production of standard crops is key to this. To this end, John Deere has launched several Big Data-enabled services which let farmers benefit from crowdsourced, real-time monitoring of data collected from its thousands of users.
They are designed by the company’s Intelligent Solutions Group, and the vision is that one day even large farms will be manageable by a small team of humans working alongside a fleet of robotic tools, all connected and communicating with each other.
To this end, they are working on a suite of services to allow everything from land preparation to seeding, fertilizing and harvesting to be controlled from a central hub.
The total land available can be split into sections and “Prescriptions” issued with precise instructions for seed density, depth and fertilization. These decisions are informed by Big Data – aggregated data from thousands of users feeding their own data back to the service for analysis.
Myjohndeere.com is an online portal which allows farmers to access data gathered from sensors attached to their own machinery as they work the fields, as well as aggregated data from other users around the world. It is also connected to external datasets including weather and financial data.
These services allow farmers to make better informed decisions about how to use their equipment, where they will get the best results from, and what return on their investment they are providing.
For example, fuel usage of different combines can be monitored and correlated with their productivity levels. By analyzing the data from thousands of farms, working with many different crops in many different conditions, it is possible to fine-tune operations for optimum levels of production.
The system also helps to minimize downtime by predicting, based on crowdsourced data, when and where equipment is likely to fail.