That’s right, John Deere, what once was just a tractor company, is now looking at getting into the satellite business by finding a partner to supply geospatial maps to its farmers.
John Deere is reportedly finalizing a satellite partnership
Jahmy Hindman, John Deere CTO, told CNBC that the company is finalizing a partner to bring some satellite data to improve crop growth.”There’s so much friction and getting that data from the field into the cloud, where they can do something useful with it, that it really isn’t used very effectively at all,” Hindman says.
As technology involves, the agriculture industry has been a big pusher of adoption and proof of success. For example, John Deere has embraced technology on their tractors and equipment with cameras and other improvements to make harvesting, fertilizing, and other duties easier for farmers. The company has even developed a drone to help spray fields more efficiently, something I learned could be a very profitable business when I attended DJI Airworks last year.
Drones that feature multispectral cameras are also highly used in agriculture to see the process of crop growth. However, while drones can get high-fidelity data from farmer’s fields, satellites can get similar data for much larger swaths of land or even entire regions of the globe.
Satellite constellations have boomed in recent years
John Deere’s ambition for this sort of service isn’t new. There are countless constellations in orbit right now, gathering this data from companies like Planet and LeoLabs. This boom is thanks to increased access to space with lower cost options from SpaceX rideshares and dedicated launchers like Rocket Lab.
With the boom in new satellite constellations comes the concern for overcrowding of low and medium Earth orbits. The FCC recently announced a change in their regulations to force US operators to deorbit their satellites within five years of completing their mission. This is a vast improvement from the previous 25-year rule, but as the market develops, there is still a concern that two active satellites can still collide. SpaceX has already performed thousands of avoidance maneuvers since its constellation was first launched.
It’s yet to be known whether or not John Deere is looking for a partner to build the company’s own satellites or a company like Planet that already has the data for purchase. John Deere is currently at CES this year, showing off some other smart features on their new equipment, so maybe I can shake some info out of them while I’m in Las Vegas.