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John Deere Talks About Data, Dealerships, and Driverless Tech

With the recent announcement that John Deere received the Ag Data Transparency seal of approval, Successful Farming magazine took the opportunity to sit down with Matt Olson, John Deere product marketing manager, to learn what this means for producers. He also talks about the importance of the company’s dealer network when it comes to harnessing the value of data as well as the future of autonomous vehicles on the farm.

SF:  The ADT certification program is based on Ag Data Core Principles developed in 2014 by the American Farm Bureau Federation and numerous ag industry groups and ag technology companies, including John Deere. If John Deere was a part of this initiative from its inception, why did it take so long for the company to receive this seal?

MO:  As conversations about data became more frequent, it became clear that the timing was right for John Deere to make this a priority. We needed to help lead the way, and we are committed to achieving that certification. 

SF:  What does this certification mean for producers?

MO:  When you look back at the reason why Ag Data Transparency was formulated, it started with the American Farm Bureau wanting to make sure that there's a tool to verify the data policies of companies that producers are working with to leverage information coming from their farms. To receive certification, a company must answer 10 different questions in the evaluator tool, which the organization felt were really important for producers to understand how a data policy affects them. This tool ensures that all data policies are on the same level because they are all being asked and evaluated in exactly the same way. 

One of the things we're really proud of at John Deere is, in early 2017, we rewrote our data policy to be even more clear than it was previously to make sure we maintain the confidence of producers. Basically, we wanted to speak to producers in straight-forward language that's clear.

SF:  Why is this initiative important not only now but also as agriculture continues to become even more digitized?

MO:  One of the reasons I really like the ADT program is because it shows that the industry is very concerned about making sure we maintain the integrity of a producer's information. If you look at what's happening in other industries, let’s say Facebook, for example, there are lots of questions relative to who's working with your data and what they are doing with it. 

I think this is a great way to maintain the integrity of the system by providing a third-party validation of the data policies the companies are using to make sure producers understand what they are agreeing to when they work with one of these providers. 

A lot of times, the government has to step in when an industry isn't governing itself properly. I am confident this initiative demonstrates that our industry is focused on integrity and that we are in front of it. Thereby, it doesn’t require regulations. 

I really think we are setting ourselves up for the future. Ten years from now, I hope our industry continues to work to maintain that integrity.

SF:  How difficult was that transition from being a single silo to collaborating with others?

MO:  John Deere has had an open platform that has allowed others to read and write to our systems since the mid-2000’s through our EIC partnerships.  So, this transition has been going on for quite some time.  Now with our John Deere Operations Center Platform that has over 80 connected software tools, we’re continuing that collaboration and seeing success in connecting producers with those that can help them make the best decisions possible.

I think we are seeing success because we have such a strong dealer network. We also have great relationships with folks other than producers, like ag retailers and ag service providers who are being challenged in how they work with all of their customers’ data and how they keep track of the work they’re doing for those customers.

We're in a great position to be able to work together. We're a leading player in the development of standards through AgGateway. We’re leveraging these standards to make sure that data is interoperable among the different systems now and in the future. We're then using APIs to connect all of these different platforms across the industry.

For example, if you're a John Deere customer, you can get the benefits of other company’s data collection or decision tools from the John Deere platform. That's a big deal for us.

As mentioned, the John Deere Operations Center currently has over 80 connected software tools adding value to  producers’ data. We develop the platform and then create the APIs. Other companies take those APIs, integrate them on their end, and add value for their part of the industry, and it's seamless to the producer. At Deere, we remain focused on driving value to helping make every machine perform to its best ability to help producers do the best job they can.

The complexity of moving data around is the main reason growers aren’t more engaged in precision ag to the extent that they probably would like to be. With JDLink, connecting all of these machines wirelessly means the flow of information is automatic and seamless. Growers set up the permissions in the John Deere Operations Center so their trusted advisers automatically get access to that information the second it's complete. It's making decisions so much faster. 

SF:  Where do you see this whole area going now that we are getting a much more seamless system? 

MO:  I really see a more rapid adoption of precision ag tools. With all of the engagement from across the industry, it is much easier to collaborate and share information, which means producers are getting access to a lot of insights that they wouldn't normally have. Not only are the insights possible, but it's also easier to get those insights. 

These systems are becoming increasingly simple – more intuitive and more automated – and require less work from users to get the outcome they're looking for. I think that's going to bring a lot of producers to the table as they become familiar and aware of the value they can get and how easily they can get it. 

Producers have a lot on their plate, and data is just another job they have to do. In a lot of ways, our dealers have done a pretty good job of helping producers manage their data, connect them to others, and then help them execute whatever it is that expert recommended they do. I think the John Deere dealer is really the backbone of making and facilitating this process to make it easier for producers.

SF:  With so much more being put back on dealers to help with this data piece, how do they change for the future to provide those answers?

MO:  Our dealers have been leading the industry in precision ag technology for almost two decades. We've really been driving dealer focus around technology, solutions, and securing talented staff who can support customers for years. In a lot of ways, it's not requiring a tremendous amount of change but rather tweaks. Dealers will continue to evolve and are evolving as we speak. 

Dealers bring great value to their customers. They are the ones who have helped producers get on board, go through change, and ultimately be successful. As a result, those producers are seeing a tremendous impact to their bottom lines. They are building relationships based on value and mutual benefit. It is what continues to drive our business and will in the future. 

SF:  Where do you see autonomous technology headed?

MO:  With our acquisition of Blue River Technologies, it’s clear where this industry is headed. We're going to continue to increase the automation of our equipment like planters, combines, and sprayers. They're already doing a lot of tasks in an automated way. Think about the automation that came with AutoTrac for the past 20 years. We’re building upon that with technologies like Combine Advisor and Vision RowSense on a sprayer. There's more and more intelligence that's guiding the machine to do the right thing at the right time – making adjustments and driving itself.

You're likely not going to see an autonomous machine from John Deere next year. For now, we’re going to continue to focus on adding value to producers’ operations and progressing our capabilities in a smart way through automation and better tools to make even better decisions.










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