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John Deere Partners with SpaceX to Connect Rural Farmers with Starlink

The collaboration is the first of its kind in the industry.

John Deere's 8R autonomous tractor.
John Deere's 8R autonomous tractor.
John Deere

Rural broadband is now a national priority. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report from April 2019, "A Case for Rural Broadband," concluded that the American economy suffered some missed opportunities because a lack of connectivity delayed the adoption of next-generation precision agriculture tools in rural farming communities. The USDA estimated that connected technologies could boost production and create up to $65 billion in annual gross benefit for the U.S.

The Biden administration has made some progress, including nearly $700 million in grants and loans, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in August 2023. The funds will help connect thousands of rural business owners, farmers and residents to reliable high-speed internet.

The 2019 report also issued a call to action for public and private partnerships to boost access to internet connectivity, and yesterday, agriculture titan Deere & Company (NYSE: DE) announced a new deal with SpaceX to provide satellite communications (SATCOM) service to farmers through the aerospace firm's Starlink network.

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According to Deere, Starlink will give farmers with connectivity challenges the ability to use precision agriculture technologies. The company says the collaboration is the first of its kind in the industry and will help John Deere customers be more productive, profitable, and sustainable while providing food, fuel, and fiber for their communities.

SATCOM will connect new and existing machines through satellite internet service and ruggedized satellite terminals, enabling new tech, like autonomy, real-time data sharing, remote diagnostics, enhanced self-repair solutions and machine-to-machine communication.

Aaron Wetzel, VP of production and precision ag production systems at John Deere, says farmers often complete tasks within extremely short windows of time, which requires incredibly precise production steps while coordinating between machines and managing machine performance. According to Wetzel, each of these areas will be enhanced with connectivity.

John Deere's SATCOM solution will leverage SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet constellation. To activate the system, John Deere dealers will install a Starlink terminal on compatible machines and a 4G LTE JDLink modem to connect to the John Deere Operations Center. 

SATCOM will initially be available through a limited release in the U.S. and Brazil starting in the second half of 2024.

David Mantey is the editorial director of digital media at IEN. With more than 15 years of experience in the design engineering and manufacturing space, he is responsible for creating and coordinating digital and multimedia content across the Industrial Media portfolio.

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