Amid the acres of drones, gadgets, games, appliances and self-driving cars at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a John Deere sprayer fully spreads its boom across one of the largest displays in the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center. It’s the second year Deere has joined the largest tech show in the world as the company looks to build its cachet among the tech elite and tell the tech story of ag to a consumer audience.
The company’s inaugural display in 2019 featured a combine, which drew a striking contrast to the rest of the gadgetry at the show.
“We really enjoyed last year where we got to talk about the space of agriculture to the broader tech community,” says Julian Sanchez, Deere’s director of precision agriculture. “We really got to tell the story of farming, and we got to tell the story of how farmers adopt technology, how farmers use technology, and how farmers want to farm productively efficiently and sustainably. So we're back to continue to tell that story.”
This year, Deere lets the sprayer do the talking of how much of the tech shown off elsewhere at CES comes together in a single piece of ag equipment. Self-driving, remote sensing, GPS, precision imaging, machine learning – it’s all there in a single piece of equipment.
But why does John Deere choose to invest heavily in a trade show devoted to consumer equipment?
“I always say farmers are consumers too, we just happen to have the biggest gadget of the show,” Sanchez explains. “But, in a broader sense, I think it's important to educate the mainstream community on technology, and just the mainstream overall, about what agriculture really is, how important it is to the world and to food production, and how technology can play a key role in helping farmers achieve those levels of productivity.”
The John Deere booth also shows off new sprayer nozzle technology designed to respond instantly to changes in wind to reduce drift by modulating droplet size. Participants can sit in the latest Deere tractor cab and can see how machine learning is helping Blue River Technology develop a sprayer that could reduce herbicide use up to 90% by targeting sprays at individual weeds.
Farmer Jeremy Jack of Mississippi was on-site to answer questions about ag tech in the Deere booth at CES. He says the ag display is generating interest from other tech companies about the needs and pain points for farmers.
“[The questions have] been around sensors and also data flow,” Jack says. “Who owns the data? How does the data move around? How do you use the data? How easily does it move back and forth? And then all the different sensors. So, I think some of that comes from people that are tied into data servers or people that are working on sensors. So that's one thing that's really interesting here is a lot of the people at the show have some part of working in some type of the technology field, and they want to know how they can fit in agriculture today.”
The CES display is also designed to draw the attention of investors and engineers.
“Maybe it engages some younger tech talent, and helping solve tech agricultural problems, or it engages other companies that are interested in helping world problems in agriculture,” Sanchez explains.
More than 175,000 tech leaders from around the world will attend the 2020 CES which runs through Friday.