Connectivity is critical to meeting global food demand, which is expected to increase 50% by 2050, as the world population is projected to significantly grow. Satellite connectivity is key to helping farmers take advantage of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Connectivity enables farmers to use these technologies to turn information and data into actionable insights to meet growing global food demands. John Deere is working to enhance its existing satellite connectivity technology to enable farmers around the world to take advantage of technology, aiming to connect 1.5 million machines by 2026.
By 2050, the world’s population is expected to grow from 8 billion to nearly 10 billion people, increasing global food demand by 50%. As farmers work hard to sustainably feed our growing world, they must do so amid steep challenges, from unpredictable weather and labor shortages to constant market volatility. Technology is an increasingly valuable tool to help farmers address these challenges, and the key to technology is connectivity.
Advanced connectivity – from mobile internet and Long-term Evolution (LTE) to fixed broadband – has been prioritized in urban areas globally, despite that rural areas are home to most of the farms nourishing our world. Farmers need fast, reliable connectivity to take advantage of the technologies they use now and those that will emerge in the years to come.
Today, 500,000 John Deere agricultural machines harness connectivity to push data to the cloud, providing farmers access to vital agricultural information on mobile devices. While these machines serve an important purpose for farmers today, the ability to unlock that data in real-time through more advanced connectivity is what is coming next. Satellite connectivity has emerged as a frontrunner to enable machines to send and receive data in real-time because of the vast coverage it can provide.
Due to this emergence of satellite communications technology, John Deere is actively working to enhance its existing satellite connectivity technology to enable farmers around the world to take advantage of technology and to further connect 1.5 million machines by 2026. To help achieve this goal, John Deere announced a request for proposals (RFP) in September 2022 seeking a satellite communications partner or partners to help bring connectivity and technology needed to farmers around the globe. Together, the plan is to provide a solution available in the market in 2024.
Adoption and optimal use of agricultural technology is essential to supporting farmers in completing their everyday tasks, meeting rapidly growing global food demands, and sustainably growing agricultural productivity. To take advantage of the latest technologies, farmers need reliable access to connectivity. In the near term, farmers can expect satellite connectivity to help them do more with less and improve their operations. Satellite connectivity can affect their work in these ways:
Autonomy solves one of agriculture’s biggest issues: limited availability of skilled labor. With autonomy, farmers and their workers can step away from machines to focus on other value-added tasks such as planning for the next day’s activities or strategizing with advisors. But starting, stopping, and keeping those machines in action requires strong connectivity. For instance, starting a machine can be as simple as swiping right to left—but only if the mobile device and tractor are connected. Farmers are taking advantage of autonomy typically during tillage, but John Deere’s goal is to offer this technology at each step of the production cycle by 2030, including when planting seeds, nurturing crops, and harvesting plants. Satellite connectivity will allow farmers to better manage their teams and operate with more precision.
The average size of a farm in the United States is 445 acres, but many are larger. Farmers often have many machines operating in a field at one time, whether planting, spraying, or harvesting crops. More machines running at once is good for productivity but enabling those machines to communicate with one another while doing the work is even more efficient. Satellite connectivity will allow every field across every farm to communicate, such as highlighting where seeds have been placed, so efforts aren’t duplicated. Visibility into data the moment it’s created enhances efficiency and productivity.
Machine downtime can be the difference between getting seeds planted or not. If a machine is down, farmers may not feel the impact of costs until months later during harvest. When there are machine issues, it can take hours or even days for a maintenance team to arrive. Today, many farmers have the ability to receive alerts on their phone when their machine might need service. When the machine is connected, farmers and their advisors can also remotely drop in to view the screen in the cab, opening up opportunities to optimize the job being performed at any given time. With access to real-time satellite connectivity, more farmers will have the ability to share diagnostics with off-site technical support staff to fix many operational issues remotely.