A deal announced today between SpaceX and John Deere illustrates another opportunity for SpaceX’s Starlink low-earth orbit satellite service – providing connectivity to support precision agriculture. John Deere is using the name SATCOM for the Starlink service, which is expected to be available in the second half of 2024.
John Deere needs internet connectivity to support communications between the John Deere Operations Center, which is the cloud that supports the company’s precision ag offerings, and the company’s autonomous tractors and other precision agriculture applications that the company offers.
As John Deere notes in its announcement about the service, not every farmer has good cellular connectivity. Accordingly, the SpaceX Starlink service provides connectivity between the farmer and the John Deere cloud.
John Deere dealers will install a ruggedized Starlink terminal, along with a 4G LTE JDLink modem, on farm equipment requiring connectivity to the cloud.
In response to an inquiry from Telecompetitor, a John Deere spokesperson explained that “the antenna is connected to the machine, for power. It creates a signal that the Deere modem uses to transmit information to and from the John Deere Operations Center.”
The SATCOM service will work with new and existing machines, John Deere said. In announcing the offering, John Deere cited several capabilities that can be supported, including real-time data sharing, remote diagnostics, enhanced self-repair offerings, and machine-to-machine communications.
The company spokesperson said information about the speeds that the SATCOM service will support is not being shared at this time. The spokesperson also confirmed that the John Deere Operations Center only supports the company’s own precision ag offerings.
One example of a John Deere precision ag offering is See & Spray, which selectively applies herbicide to weeds, minimizing the amount of herbicide used.
“The SATCOM solution unlocks the John Deere tech stack so every farmer can fully utilize their current precision agriculture technology in addition to the new innovative solutions they will deploy in the future,” said Jahmy Hindman, John Deere senior vice president and chief technology officer, in a prepared statement.
SpaceX has been gradually racking up new deals to support various applications for the Starlink service. For example, a deal with T-Mobile will support emergency text connectivity to unmodified smartphones. The company also has inked deals involving connectivity for airplanes. And in the future, the company may have opportunities involving quantum security.