Product Transformation Christian Idiodi

Protecting the Planet, One Customer at a Time

By Christian Idiodi

For most organizations, the word legacy translates into hierarchal and slow moving. For John Deere, legacy is just another way of acknowledging the company’s 185-year commitment to technology and innovation.

Back in 1837, company founderJohn Deere invented the steel plow. This was quickly followed by products such as horse-drawn reapers, sulky plows, mowers and threshing machines. Each of these technological innovations helped transform the agricultural industry by enabling farmers to cultivate and harvest much larger yields.

Today, Deere & Company is once again being asked to transform the industry that it created.With the global population expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, farmers began asking John Deere to do more than just sell agricultural equipment. Instead, they wanted the company to help them become more profitable while at the safe time being environmentally responsible.

The demand for sustainability made Deere & Company recognize that if it wanted to maintain its position of leadership in the industry, it would need to transform itself from an equipment manufacturer into a technology company with “smart farming” at the center of its operations.

For John Deere, smart farming meant leveraging advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics to help produce food for the growing population–while at the same time minimizing threats to the environment. Product Management Director Doug Sauder provides just one example of how this occurs:

“Historically, when farmers wanted to get rid of weeds in their feeds, they would spray all of the ground, regardless of whether there was a weed there or not. This wasn’t just inefficient but also harmful to the environment. Deere’s solution, which came from our acquisition of Blue River Technologies, was to mount cameras on a sprayer. Each of those cameras contains a sophisticated machine learning algorithm. The algorithm enables the cameras to constantly scan the fields and spray herbicide only on the weeds and not the plants. This enables us to reduce herbicide usage by upwards of 90%.”

Transformation from the Top

Deere & Company started its transformation back in 2009 when CEO Sam Allen created the Global Operating Model for Sustainable Growth. During his ten-year tenure, Allen also hired a Chief Technology Officer who was directly responsible for the staffing and investments the company needed to make to become a tech-based business. This resulted in an internal division called the Intelligent Solutions Group, which required John Deere to recruit and manage new skillsets that included cloud computing, data analytics, and software engineering.

In 2019, John Deere unveiled its Future Technology Zone showcasing innovations in three key areas–electrification, automation, and artificial intelligence. In that same year, the company also became an Innovation Awards Honoree for its new 8RX tractor that integrated artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and advanced automation to help farmers work more efficiently.

For Doug Sauder, Deere & Company’s continuing commitment to technology and innovation goes far beyond operational performance: “Serving our customers means serving the land. Like doctors with their patients, one of our guiding principles is todo no harm. By protecting the environment, we’re not only helping our customers become more profitable. We’re also creating a more sustainable future that benefits the entire planet.”

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