Farm Equipment Maker Partners with SpaceX for Connectivity

As farming moves into the future, connectivity becomes a more pressing issue. To use the latest precision technology, John Deere is partnering with SpaceX to add Starlink terminals on farm equipment. Mike Kool, Senior Product Manager for Connected Fleets at John Deere, says the deal is ready to roll out later this year and can reach the third of rural Americans unable to get a good enough connection.

This initial offering, Starlink has a Leo constellation, it’s a low Earth orbit constellation that provides higher bandwidth, lower latency to unlock all the tech that they need on their machines today and in the future. So we’re very, very excited about this partnership. And again, we’re looking to roll this out in the latter part of 2024 with them.

Because of a lack of proper cellular service, the RM modem 4g LTE connection most of the technology uses is not enough to let farmers get the services Deere equipment usually provides. Kool says they aim to help by getting compatible terminals to the market on a need-by-need basis.

Starlink will be providing a terminal, and we’ll be providing the bracketry and necessary peripherals to power those up on the machine. We estimate that 30% of cropland in the US is just not covered to the level of connectivity that our machines and customers need to operate them to the fullest capability with the tech stack that they have on them.

Kool says the terminal will connect to the tractor it’s installed on and it’s intended to work on older models.

Any machine that has a 4g LTE style modem theoretically could be outfitted with this offering, and we’re working through cap compatibility as it relates to mounting and the like.

The partnership is to help rural farmers dealing with connectivity issues. Kool says farmers not interested will see no changes to Deere equipment.

This will be an aftermarket-type kit from the beginning rollout where a customer can go to their dealer, purchase it, help with installation that Deere there will on that machine. And ultimately it will just connect that machine.

There are no commitments now, but Kool says theoretically farmers may use their Deere tractor and Starlink terminal to also connect devices.

That is one of the use cases that we’ve seen, where obviously if you don’t have cell connectivity for your machine in rural America and rural Brazil, there’s an opportunity to connect devices to that as well. Again, we’ll be smart with that. But we’re not going to close any gaps at this point. But more to come on that ultimately

Kool says they are excited about the partnership and its potential with connectivity.

We feel confident that this solution will help those in rural America or rural Brazil to close that connectivity gap once and for all.