Connectivity the name of the game as ag equipment evolves


Not all concepts exhibited at Agritechnica make it to commercialization. Instead of moving an individual piece of equipment forward, it’s usually a concept that clicks, is picked up by engineers, and moves forward.

For Wes Lefroy, agricultural analyst with RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness — Australia and New Zealand, one of the most interesting aspects of attending a show like Agritechnica, is getting to see once-concepts in ag tech come to fruition.

“I think we’re gonna see at least the swarm (field-level) type robotics enter the market before we see the independent drone type pod technologies hit the market,” says Lefroy. “And I guess the major reason that I think that is because drones have a lot more regulatory requirements that they’ve got to jump through, and in terms of things like battery power as well…it takes a lot more energy to actually lift weight off the ground than it does to pull it along the ground.”

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Unmanned aerial vehicles definitely have extra set of challenges in power and connectivity, but Lefroy sees those challenges being solved as we move forward.

“My key message to a lot of the farms I talk to is that I think there are solutions that are coming onto the market that will relieve the pressure in this area,” he says, but the larger issue, especially in the vast expanses of the Canadian Prairie or Australia’s huge fields, is connectivity. And there will be solutions that come from tech outside of telecom providers  for providing and/or amplifying signals.

Using the satellite-driven, John Deere base station as an example, a unit that boasts 40 km range in Brazil, and about 2 km range in Canadian applications, Lefroy says that Australian farmers are building their own Wifi-type networks, and working together.

That kind of cooperation on tech solutions is definitely a trend Lefroy thinks will continue, and expand. As he heads back to Australia, he says that he’ll be sharing not just what managing production risk with tech looks like, but how business models are going to change, how cooperation will evolve, and how data ownership will continue to be a big question in the mix.

Check out more from Wes Lefroy and his colleagues in the company’s podcast.

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