John Deere will soon start a trial with a prototype of its autonomous electric tractor in Australia. The company plans to launch the electric autonomous tractor in Australia in 2026.
According to Steph Gersekowski, John Deere Australia and New Zealand Production System Manager, the trial with a prototype of the battery-powered utility tractor will soon commence on Australian farms to extensively test the equipment under Australia’s unique farming conditions.
Ms Gersekowski says autonomous electric tractors will create a monumental shift. “Not only for John Deere as a manufacturer, but also for Australian agriculture”, she emphasises. “In less than four years, horticulture farmers will be able to leverage this intelligent and efficient equipment across their farms, creating what can genuinely be described as a significant step-change for high-value crop production.”
Electrification and autonomous equipment help businesses reduce CO2 emissions, improve safety and bolster productivity, she points out. “All outcomes which strongly align with John Deere’s overarching goal to deliver a fleet of intelligent and connected machines to help the industry become more sustainable, productive and efficient.”
Alongside the tractor, John Deere will also bring electric batteries and chargers to market to facilitate the new technology. “We believe this move will create a mindset shift towards power and will prioritise the use of green energy on farms”, Ms Gersekowski says.
John Deere’s electrification journey was accelerated in February, when the company acquired the majority ownership in Kreisel Electric, a global leader in high-density, high-durability battery modules and packs.
“Kreisel Electric’s proprietary technology is cutting-edge”, Ms Gersekowski says. “It delivers differentiated battery technology and currently services a global customer base across multiple markets. The majority investment in Kreisel Electric will allow Deere to optimally integrate vehicle and powertrain designs around high-density battery packs, while leveraging Kreisel’s charging technology to build out infrastructure required for farming adoption.”
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Autonomous tractors have the power to improve job quality and consistency, Ms Gersekowski says. “They reduce noise pollution and drive productivity and they can also help meet the horticulture industry’s immense challenge of sourcing labour.”
Farmers can rapidly scale up automation during pinch-point moments, like harvest or spraying
“Automation is also perfectly scalable, meaning farmers can rapidly scale up automation during pinch-point moments, like harvest or spraying, where labour may be scarce, and then just as easily scale down when they have less time constraints or greater access to skilled workers.”
Ms Gersekowski believes the horticulture industry is primed to leap forward with this technology, as many farmers are already leveraging John Deere’s Digital Ecosystem to direct and monitor the flow of machinery across their farms.
John Deere customer research indicated high-value crop producers were eager to adopt electric machinery, with up to 70% of horticulture farmers indicating they would like to purchase an electric option.
“Rather than a futuristic ideal, electrification has become today’s expectation”, Ms Gersekowski says. “Australian agriculture, and in particular the horticulture sector, is facing immense challenges and opportunities in providing a growing worldwide population with food. Delivering autonomous and electrically powered tractors is among the solutions John Deere is providing farmers to harness Australian agriculture’s immense opportunities of meeting this increased global food demand.”