John Deere is set to launch an autonomous battery-powered electric tractor in Australia in 2026.
Speaking at the major national horticulture conference Hort Connections on Wednesday, John Deere production system manager Steph Gersekowski said farmers would see a significant step-change in high-value crop production.
"Machinery of this kind will create a monumental shift, not only for John Deere as a manufacturer, but also for Australian agriculture," Ms Gersekowski said.
"Electrification and autonomous equipment helps businesses reduce CO2e emissions, improve safety and bolster productivity, 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."
A prototype of the battery powered tractor is expected to be in operation within 12 months to test the equipment under Australian farming conditions.
"Alongside the tractor, John Deere will also bring electric batteries and chargers to market to facilitate the new technology," Ms Gersekowski said.
"We believe this move will create a mindset shift towards power and will prioritise the use of green energy on farms."
To accelerate its electrification journey, Deere invested in the battery technology company Kreisel Electric in February. This investment will enable Deere to integrate vehicle and powertrain designs around high-density battery packs, while leveraging Kreisel's charging technology, she said.
Ms Gersekowski said autonomous tractors would not only also improve job quality and consistency, reduce noise pollution and drive productivity, but they would also help meet the horticulture industry's major challenge of sourcing labour.
"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," she said.
"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."
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