When John Deere recently released its new lineup of 8 series tractors, they also announced the tractors will leave the factory fully integrated, fully capable and fully supported with the latest technology.
Up until this point, precision components were options when purchasing a new tractor of any color.
Deere’s move to integrate the components and make them standard changes the game for manufacturers, dealers, and farmers.
“It all started back in the early to mid-’90 when companies like Ag Leader had the first yield monitors that farmers were adding to the combines. After that, a number of companies began creating after-market systems that could be added to combines for yield mapping and also lightbars for guidance,” said Scott Gerken, Account Manager for Kenn-Feld Group, a six-store John Deere dealer.
It did not take long for the popularity of the “new” technology to take off. Soon mainline equipment manufacturers were taking notice. That is when John Deere began offering their first generation of precision agriculture technology.
This most recent release includes generation 4 technology. These tractors have the GPS receiver, cellular modem, and operator display already installed in the tractor, and everything is now fully integrated.
“Farmers are used to having a loose display that they move with the receiver from unit to unit; and as a farmer traded a tractor, they would keep their technology and move it to the new tractor. Now with the generation 4 technology fully integrated, we will be trading those pieces of technology with the tractor,” said Gerken.
“What this means for the farmer is that the latest tractor has the display and receiver built into it and can do everything out-of-the-box,” said Ben Krugh, Integrated Solutions Specialist for the Kenn-Feld Group.
This starts with the basic package that comes standard with documentation and AutoTrac (steering) on the new 8R series. It also has 5 years of wireless data transfer via JD Link Connect to the Operations Center. The upgraded to the Premium package activation which gives farmers the ability to manage files and has wireless data transfer, document operations, manage seeding prescriptions, operate section control and AutoTrac assisted steering.
Another upgrade to the automation package can be added to further enhance the automation level and documentation. This would include automated end-row turns and guidance. It will also allow in-field data sharing to wirelessly share guidance lines, coverage maps, machine location, grain tank fill levels, and unloading auger status between machines. It can synchronize tractor and grain cart speed and position with the combine for on-the-go unloading during harvest.
“Full integration of the generation 4 technology also means that as a dealership we need to be able to support all four generations of technology that are currently being used on the farm. It is not uncommon for the dealership to get a call from a farmer who just installed a first-generation PF 80XXX GPS “brown box” display and wants to know how to operate it; and then the next call may be from a farmer that has a second-generation 2600 display that needs to know how to set-up individual fields before he harvests; then a call from a farmer having issues working out “shared coverage” with the generation 4 technology (trying to have two separate units working in the same field at the same time using a shared AB line).
“The large variety of questions can be a challenge from technology that is two months old all the way to 15 years old,” said Gerken.
“We are trying to meet the customer where they are at in their technology adoption, and see what the best fit is for them and what their goals are, and where they want to go,” said Krugh.
With the speed of advancement in technology, it does not take long for what is new today to become out of date or even obsolete in just a few short years. One concern with the latest technology being fully integrated into the machine is that it could become out-of-date while the actual iron (machine) is not worn out yet.
This should not be a concern according to Krugh.
“We have been through this before. The first generation 4’s that came out had to be updated to keep up with the data demands of the newest planters, the updates were done and they work fine.”
Looking at the newest integrated technology, a component in the tractor can simply be replaced to update the technology.
“The interface will not change, but the software and some hardware will be updated,” said Gerken.
For those unfamiliar with the new Generation 4 technology, it may feel like switching from a flip phone to a smartphone.
“There will be a small learning curve. If you are used to the older generation operating systems found in Generation 2 and Generation 3 technology, it may be a slight adjustment. For those just starting out, Generation 4 technology is very intuitive and user-friendly, similar to operating a smartphone,” said Gerken. “For someone just getting started, it is very user-friendly.”
By: Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA