How Autonomy Is Driving New Partnerships in Agriculture

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With the value of the autonomous farming sector forecast to reach $95 billion by 2027, the promise of business growth is leading to interesting partnerships and investment agreements.


“Autonomy Makes Strange Bedfellows” was the title of a panel at the recent 2023 VISION Conference organized by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and moderated by Senior VP Curt Blades with representatives from John DeereYara North America, and Topcon Agriculture. “Those are three very different companies that are all collaborating with each other and others in the industry,” said Blades.

Blades says Yara is a global crop nutrition company that has been actively involved in AEM and the precision ag space. “They’ve had the vision of understanding how important it is to work really closely with traditional equipment manufacturers.”

Representing Yara on the panel was Incubation Lead Courtney Yuskis. “Yara, from a global perspective, understood that we needed to intentionally insert ourselves into the digitalization happening in the ag value chain,” said Yuskis. “Our expertise is in agronomics …. and we need to understand the data coming our way and be able to provide the agronomic expertise in a way that is easily facilitated at the grower level.”

On the panel with Yuskis were Michele Kaiser, Business Development Manager, ISG, John Deere, and Kent Carroll, VP Sales for North America with Topcon Agriculture.

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As a technology company, Topcon Agriculture has partnered with many other companies, including both Yara and John Deere. “We at Topcon specifically recognize that we can’t service everything that we do and so we’re constantly looking for the right partners,” said Carroll. “Sometimes they’re acquisitions, sometimes they’re collaborations, or even funding development by third parties.”

John Deere has survived as a market leader in agricultural equipment for 186 years by constantly innovating and looking for new ideas, which is why Kaiser says they started the Startup Collaborator program in 2019. “Working with technology startups is a really cool way for us to do that and for us to take a big idea and make it bigger so we can do something of value for our customers,” said Kaiser.

Everyone agreed on the importance of data and interoperability for the brave new world of agriculture. “You can’t have autonomy, you can’t have robotics, you can’t have all of the vision of Agriculture 4.0 without solid, foundational data, and it’s got to be interoperable,” said Blades.

For more on autonomous farming trends and everything else that was discussed at the 2023 VISION Conference, visit