John Deere, the world’s largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment, has entered into a partnership agreement with Musk’s Starlink that will allow large-scale agricultural machinery in even the most remote areas of the United States to be ″grid-enabled″ and run automated planting and harvesting programs starting later this year.
In short, John Deere wide range of tractors, planters, field sprayers, and other equipment will support a satellite internet connection, allowing areas without internet access to run Deere’s ″automated planting software.
The global farm machinery manufacturing giant has also spent billions of dollars on computer technology in recent years. For example, the company has developed software that allows herbicide-spraying machines to distinguish between crops and weeds, as well as allowing tractors to plow unmanned.
Jahmy Hindman, chief technology officer at Deere, revealed that the company spent eight months testing a range of satellites before deciding to work together and that one of the reasons it ultimately chose Starlink was that Musk’s satellites had better transmission speeds. Hindman emphasized that Starlink’s ability to build and launch its satellites is a very unique advantage across the entire satellite internet industry.
From a business standpoint, these near-Earth orbit satellites also open up new avenues of revenue for the farm machinery giant. Deere had equipment sales of $55.6 billion in its most recent fiscal year, and the company aims to increase its share of software services revenue to 10 percent by 2030.
Through these software services, farmers in the U.S. can now remotely monitor the machines working in their fields, locate and troubleshoot machines online, and access real-time soil, seed, and plant data.
For many farmers, a major prerequisite for running these services is the availability of a wireless signal to cover their farmland. Deere disclosed that 30 percent of farmland in the US does not have adequate Wi-Fi service. And in other parts of the world, such as Brazil, the world’s leading producer of agricultural products such as soybeans, sugarcane, and fruits, more than 70 percent of farmland is not connected to the internet.
The service will go live in Brazil and some parts of the U.S. that don’t have internet access within the year, according to a partnership agreement between Deere and Starlink. Equipment dealers will install Starlink’s receivers on top of the cabs of their vehicles, which will also be customized to suit the dusty, rugged natural environment.
Deere also admits that it has not yet determined how much farmers in the U.S. and Brazil will have to pay for the network receivers and network service. Under the current service system, Deere sells machinery and equipment with a range of software, which is charged according to the actual use of the situation. Considering that agricultural machinery is expensive and large, Deere also tends to provide up-to-date software services without requiring farmers to upgrade their hardware.
Satellite Internet Services
Striking a partnership with the farm machinery giant has also provided a major boost to Starlink’s exhibition business. Like many of its peers, the customers Starlink needs are those who live in remote areas and lack fiber optic connectivity. As for densely populated areas, the cost of satellites is hard to beat terrestrial fiber.
At a recent SpaceX event, Musk also said that Starlink’s role is to complement existing terrestrial networks, not replace them. According to Starlink’s most recent business report, the company’s customers have totaled more than 2.3 million, covering everything from the average household to container freighters and small airlines. Sources familiar with the matter said Starlink finalized its partnership with Deere & Co. after beating out Intelsat, which is providing satellite Internet service to hundreds of regional airline aircraft, and sources say Intelsat is competing with Starlink for orders from United Airlines.
Some SpaceX investors say it is the satellite Internet, which has a broader range of applications than the rocket launch business, that underpins SpaceX’s valuation. In recent valuations, SpaceX has been valued at $180 billion, up another $30 billion from mid-2023.