Farmers Hacking Green

It’s not news that technology is both a blessing and a burden.  Every new iteration of today’s farm equipment is more efficient and allows the farmer to manage acres despite an ever-dwindling labor pool.

Today’s technologically advanced farm equipment is computer-controlled from the steering wheel to the tractor tires.  Unfortunately, John Deere uses proprietary software to control all the equipment operations, and even simple malfunctions require special software to diagnose and repair.  Of course, only your authorized John Deere dealer has access to that software, and if it is late or your farm is too far away from a dealership (or the dealership doesn’t have enough technicians to serve all the customers), a farmer could be stopped indefinitely.  Every hour of downtime costs money.

In protest, some farmers are turning to computer hacks or black market copies of diagnostic software so they can make their own repairs.  Technically, this violates the intellectual property of John Deere.  Practically, farmers believe they have no choice since John Deere is unable to provide any reasonable alternative.

Iowa is considering legislation that would allow farmers to use diagnostic software without penalty.  This is causing quite a stir in other technology markets.   While I disagree that AT&T and Microsoft would suddenly decline to sell their products in a state that allowed device hacking, I certainly can see cause for concern.

There should be a “happy medium” where both sides can prosper.  The manufacturers should provide licensed diagnostic software that allows the farmers to make their own repairs.  Those that are geographically remote or mechanically capable will take advantage of the opportunity, but my expectation is that there will still be a substantial market for dealerships to provide technical and mechanical service.

Farm labor is becoming too scarce – and this includes qualified technicians.  John Deere should embrace this change, and not only provide diagnostic software but teach classes (and provide certification).  A smart corporation can figure out how to profit from a model that make the customer happy.

For more information, check out this video:

Millennial Farmer – Harvesting Sugarcane

You should add Millienial Farmer to your social media feed.  Zach Johnson is a Minnesota Farmer that brings the world with him to work.  He talks plainly about the challenges and realities of farming.

This episode finds him traveling to Florida where crops are very different from Minnesota (or Indiana).  See the harvest of sugarcane and head lettuce in this video.

NOTE – this is a 20+ minute video.  For more information, be sure to read the show notes.