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Precision agriculture – connected machines feed the nation

Data-driven yields in agricultures’ high-tech future

John Deere and its independent dealer network in South Africa and Africa is, today, able to leverage technology to monitor and support machines remotely. The cumulative effect of connected machines minimising downtime while leveraging a wide range of new data to maximise accuracy, predictability and operability, holds the potential to dramatically increase the quantity, variety, availability, quality and value of food in Africa.  

As much as John Deere values personal interactions with customers, today, the technology is here to support customer equipment remotely without needing to be physically present to do so. The time, service and efficiency savings that this represents for clients is significant. As a global leader in agricultural technology and innovation since 1837, John Deere Connected Support uses telematics to link machines to a suite of remote support tools that improve service efficiency and reduce machine downtime.  John Deere dealers throughout South Africa offer various proactive services and monitoring support packages that achieve more uptime though the provision of in-the-moment services ensuring quality job performance. Increasingly John Deere equipment has the technology to sense potential issues, informing drivers in the cab – or owners, regardless of where they are – of likely issues before they happen. The technology also allows local John Deere dealers to receive alerts and connect to client’s equipment remotely to run diagnostics. 

Through an extensive dealership network in South Africa and more broadly in Africa John Deere enables a full suite of Connected Support, including:

  • JDLink ™ Machine Alert Monitoring, deploying selected diagnostic trouble codesallowing dealers and customers to monitor connected machines, assess machine health and prevent major failures.
  • Service ADVISOR™ Remote allowing dealers to view machine information, review diagnostic trouble code alerts and other machine data, enabling near-instant decisions on whether a visit or additional diagnostics are necessary. If a visit is required, the information already supplied remotely allows the technician to bring the correct parts and tools to fix the problem on the first visit, significantly reducing downtime.
  • Remote Programming, allowing a dealer to update software on machines, enabling the resolution of defects and the provision of new features from afar. Performing these functions remotely reduces downtime and increases efficiency.
  • Remote Display Access, allowing a customer or dealer to view an operators’ screen remotely from a phone, tablet or computer. Remote machine optimisation recommendations and remote diagnostics save time as well as reduce the cost of sending a technician out to the field.
  • Expert Alerts, which proactively notify dealers of potential machine breakdowns while providing the necessary information to resolve the issue. Expert Alerts prevent, minimise or manage customer downtime, reducing the incidence and cost of catastrophic failures.
  • Machine Dashboard, allowing dealers to monitor farmers entire connected equipment fleet. An overall view of machine health helps farmers plan for maintenance during scheduled downtime.  John Deere dealers knowing the health of farmers entire connected fleets allows technicians to deal with the entire fleets issues in the same visit, saving time and money.

Remote Display Access

To start taking advantage of the benefits offered by these technologies, farmers will need to order new equipment or upgrade existing equipment with a receiver, a compatible display, a mobile telematics gateway module, and a JDLink™ activation. John Deere also offers hardware solutions for smaller equipment, providing basic guidance and management. Universal auto steer kits can be fitted to both older John Deere equipment as well as equipment from other manufacturers.  All farmers need to do is register a profile on the John Deere Operations Centre allowing the local John Deere dealer to access the farmers equipment and start providing the data to enable the Connect Support.  

The StarFire™ 6000 Receivers offer four differential correction signal levels matching equipment performance with operational needs.  StarFire 1 is the basic signal subscription with no repeatability and a pass-to-pass accuracy of ± 15 cm.  The more advanced StarFire 3 offers in-season repeatability with a pass-to-pass accuracy of ± 3 cm.  Lastly, the most advanced signal option is Radio RTK and Mobile RTK, providing continuous repeatability from a fixed base station and a pass-to-pass accuracy of ± 2.5 cm.

Pass-to-pass accuracy has a direct impact on yield when spacing during planting, strip tilling, or applying fertiliser. Guess-row spacing is also critical for operational efficiency and reducing crop damage when mixing implements of various widths.  Pass-to-pass accuracy also impacts yield and input costs by reducing skip or overlap during operations like spraying, fertiliser spreading, or tillage. Selecting the correct differential is essential to optimise operation and accuracy. For example, if accuracy for planting is critical to yield, StarFire 3 or RTK would be the logical choice.  

Repeatability defines how accurately the receiver calculates position over time. In-season repeatability is critical when using AutoTrac™ for multiple jobs throughout the growing season. Guidance lines created during planting can, for example, be used again for side dressing fertiliser, post-emerge spraying, and harvesting.

SF6000 Receiver

To compliment the receiver and signal subscription, John Deere also offers 4240 and 4640 Universal Display. The 4240 Universal Display is ideal for farmers with limited precision agriculture needs operating open station machines. The 4240 is a good fit for all makes of tractors (AutoTrac™ Universal and AutoTrac™ Controller tractor models for AutoTrac™ requirements) and for operators that prefer to run precision agriculture apps on a universal display. The 4640 Universal Display is ideal for large volumes of customer, farm, and field data. The 4640 works well with large or numerous boundaries created or imported to the display, intense software updates and display reprogramming activities. By using applications such as File Manager and Software Manager as well as AutoTrac™, Documentation and Section Control the 4640 minimises the time required for the import or export of large data files.

The AutoTrac™Universal 300 (ATU300) steering kit is a mobile guidance solution that enhances productivity throughout the growing season. ATU300 is compatible with GreenStar™ 2 1800 and 2600 displays, GreenStar 3 2630, and Generation 4 4240 and 4640 Universal Displays.  It is also compatible with StarFire™ 6000 and StarFire™ 3000 Receivers.  ATU300 is approved on over 600 equipment platforms and is compatible with most agricultural vehicles with steering systems in good mechanical condition.

ATU300/ATC300

The advantages of the AutoTrac™ Universal 300 over the AutoTrac™ Universal 200 include improved on-track line performance, weather-resistant design (open station approved), faster line acquisition, improved diagnostics and easy-to-use calibration for quicker setup

The newly introduced AutoTrac™ Controller 300 (ATC300) is a customisable solution enabling the benefits of AutoTrac™ on machines not already equipped with a guidance system. This allows the operator to maintain the original cab experience and is available for tractors with open or closed centre hydraulic systems.

To help farmers acquire performance enhancing technology without compromising their free capital in uncertain times, John Deere has developed finance packages supporting the purchase of any John Deere precision agriculture units that form part of any equipment purchase of R100 000 or more. With VAT-back deposits as low as 10% and terms of up to 36 months at reduced interest rates, purchasing John Deere precision agriculture equipment in combination with other machinery extends these financing terms to standard equipment as well.

John Deere’s suite of affordably financed Connected Support services enables any farmer to benefit from precision agriculture. South Africa’s farmers, big and small, are competing in a globally competitive agricultural sector under pressure to remain relevant in a rapidly changing market defined by constantly shifting consumer patterns and the demand for ever-greater volumes. Managing production costs, producing more of the right food at a price acceptable to consumers while also effectively managing the environmental impact and sustainability of operations requires not only data, but also the ability use this data to optimise outcomes.

In short, technology is increasingly the key enabler equipping farmers to meet the challenge of feeding Africa – by producing more food off the land currently available today. Connect Support technology allows John Deere to support farmers 24/7 to farm more efficiently, increase yield, feed an ever-growing population, and drive export earnings.

For more information or to get started, please reach out to your nearest John Deere dealer at Africa@JohnDeere.com.

Wayne Spaumer is Product Specialist for Precision Agriculture, Sub-Sahara Africa at John Deere.

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Farmers Review Africa
Farmers Review Africa