Deere & Co. said Tuesday it would connect its equipment to SpaceX's satellite technology, allowing farmers to use precision agriculture features even in areas with poor internet connection.
The partnership allows Deere to hook up new and existing equipment to Starlink, a broadband satellite internet service pioneered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The tractor giant said it will "enable technologies such as autonomy, real-time data sharing, remote diagnostics, enhanced self-repair solutions, and machine-to-machine communication."
The new satellite communications service, which includes installation of a rugged terminal and modem, will begin to roll out in the U.S. and Brazil later this year.
While rural broadband and cellular infrastructure has grown over the years, many farmers still struggle to get a connection. Approximately 15% of farms reported having no internet access, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2023 technology use report.
As infrastructure buildout continues, Deere is turning to satellites to allow farmers in low-connectivity areas to still operate the manufacturer's digital tools.
“The value of connectivity to farmers is broader than any single task or action,” said Aaron Wetzel, Deere vice president of production and precision ag production systems. "Connectivity unlocks vast opportunities that were previously limited or unavailable."
Deere began searching for a partner or set of partners in 2022 to connect new and existing machines through satellite service to “ruggedized” terminals. The company said the partnership would enable customers to be more productive, profitable and sustainable in their operations.
Compared to other satellite internet services, Starlink uses a “constellation” of thousands of satellites that orbit Earth at a much closer distance, offering lower latency speeds that support streaming, online gaming, video calls and other high data rate activities.
As of Jan. 15, approximately 4,620 Starlink satellites are in orbit, according to astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who tracks the constellation on his website.
The SpaceX company on Monday posted the Deere announcement to social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, noting “Starlink is ideal for rural locations.”