John Deere’s “Farm Forward” Video

I hope you take the time to watch this video as it is quite thought-provoking. There is a somber, cold, dark, soulless, and lonely mood portrayed here on this futuristic computerized farm, with ominous sounding background music. Even the weather of dark skies and thunderstorms is gloomy over the large flat monoculture crop field. Why the gloomy tone?

For those who think we are out of touch with our food production now, you just wait. For those who fear cyber-security problems, it’s a road you won’t want to go down. For those who want to see a return to smaller farms, shut yer eyes. Biodynamic food producers — never mind. Luddites, you have my permission to opt out of watching altogether.

For these comments, sorry, Deere.

How will technology change farming in the future?

The only certainty is that technology will continue to change how we farm.

John Deere offers one vision on how farmers might control their operations in the future.

To learn more about John Deere’s technology offerings, visit JD FarmSight.

10 thoughts on “John Deere’s “Farm Forward” Video

    1. K.M. Post author

      I understand that many are in your “category”. In some ways we’re already very close to this way of farming.

      Good to hear your viewpoint.

  1. Jason

    Fascinating video. I have mixed feelings about this direction. On the one hand I am looking forward to the ability we will have to run our new center pivots from my iPhone. And I would love to have the kind of field management software shown in the video to track inputs, outputs and work schedules. My neighbor bought a new fleet of John Deere tractors and is having problems keeping drivers awake. They want to watch DVDs and text message their friends and it almost seems as if people are barely needed in the cab. In the video I was surprised to see a person in the driver’s seat.

    The question for me is will these technologies be used to simplify agroecosystems even more, or will they allow managers to better incorporate more biodiversity into farming? Will these systems lock farmers into a prescribed set of recommended inputs or give them the tools to diversify and make choices they weren’t aware of or thought were too difficult to make?

  2. KJMClark

    Four minor problems. Rain?!? Must be nice. (They probably should have had the tornado warnings going off while they were at it.) I wonder if it was automatically shutting down the irrigation systems given that the rain forecast increased.

    Irrigation? Hope that’s not the Ogallala aquifer, or he’d be getting a well warning at the same time. Maybe they solved that somehow? I kind of doubt it. And funny how the map of his fields change when there’s an irrigation alert.

    Why’s that guy still out there driving the tractor? Shouldn’t it be completely driving itself by then? Or where are the four other tractors running behind it being controlled by the first tractor? Heck, why isn’t the farmer just playing a version of Farmville?

    Finally, where’s the banker calling for the loan payment for all of that fancy equipment? John Deere isn’t going to sell that for cheap.

  3. KJMClark

    Come to think of it, Jason could rig up those center pivots from his iPhone today. Get an Arduino with a GSM shield, hook it up to adequate sized relays (or cascaded relays), and write a bit of code to have it turn things on with a text message. When I get solar on the barn next year I’m going to set up an Arduino to do that and other things. Piece of cake. Don’t have to wait for Deere for that.

  4. steve from virginia

    Deere is going the wrong way, zigging when it should zag. Smaller, simpler, less expensive farm equipment is in the future. Soviet-style ‘super farms’ growing one or two commodity crops requiring massive capital outlays are being undone by costs and shrinking available credit. Smaller, more flexible farms will succeed in this environment.

    Farmers have been subsidize their operations directly by selling land to subdivision developers or by using 1301 swaps to gain land and to finance equipment. The age of sprawl development is done, so are the subsidies. For the past 20 years the farmers’ land has been an ATM, not any more.

    Funny that the so-called farming of the future starts off with the farmer beginning his day watching TV.

  5. K.M. Post author

    Note that someone linked this post over at another site with this comment:

    Here are a few things that farmers do now that most of you might not know about.

    1) Tractors and combines are guided by satellites (GPS). – This makes running huge machinery possible and increases productivity from very precise steering via satellite. Can’t guide the huge machinery nearly as accurately by hand as a satellite can do. Steering by hand results in a lot of overlap or missed grain at the edge of the heads (try sitting 12 hours/day up in the air 12 feet looking out 25 feet while moving on uneven terrain and judging exactly where you are-can’t be done) therefore productivity is hugely increased with precise steering from GPS.

    2) Fields are grid sampled for nutrient/fertilizer needs. Then this information is input-ed into a computer on fertilizer applicators and fertilizer is applied based on needs of a specific area again using GPS. The fertilizer requirements vary greatly in the same field. Precise application of fertilizer within a field greatly increases productivity-gets the nutrients exactly where they are needed.

    3) Combine cutting heads (the part that cuts the grain and could be up to say fifty feet wide) float along the ground using ground sensors and feedback to a hydraulic system that controls the contour of the head. With a large head the contour of the ground can change dramatically within the width of the head. This again allows larger machines and greatly helps cut the grain roughly an inch off the ground no matter what the contour of the ground. Productivity increases greatly and makes large combines possible.

    4) Irrigation can be monitored via l Apple cell phones. When irrigation shuts down, you will know, which is a big deal when you might have 50 irrigation units spread over 25 miles.

    Good farmers are heavy data users. Computers, GPS and genetics are more a part of farming than is widely understood.

  6. Gdc

    Steve is out of touch with the future of Ag. —- K.M. Is right on, as most successful farms of the future, that will feed the majority of people (even Russian farmers) operate this way now.
    However there are still small and important markets for the small specialized / organic / etc. farmer, where small non tech operations will survive. But this will only contribute a small portion of the food to feed the future.


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