Deere & Company officials discuss innovation and the use of artificial intelligence in combines

QUAD CITIES — After a decade as chairman and CEO of John Deere, Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer, Sam Allen says he’s convinced the company’s best days are still ahead.

At Wednesday’s annual meeting in the Quad Cities, shareholders heard a review of past performance and how new challenges will be met.

Deere spokesman Ken Golden says innovation, automation and digitization are already part of the company’s long-term strategy.

“In the world of artificial intelligence, you see stuff like in our combine where the combine operator gets much more information from our artificial intelligence and cameras,” Golden says. “Of course, it’s all about training the computers to understand what they’re seeing and what action they need to take.”

Golden’s talking about “Combine Advisor,” a Deere product which helps farmers improve yield and grain quality.

During the meeting, shareholder Lester Bergsten, of Peoria, Illinois, asked CEO Allen whether Deere is using new technology to reduce emissions from diesel engines. Bergsten says the initial answer was a “yes.”

“Of course, you could interpret that as yes, they got rid of the exhaust as recirculation, then he went back and said they’re making progress in that area,” Bergsten says. “So he first just quickly danced around and then did go back and thought better on it. He’s an old engine man so he ought to know a lot about that.”

Allen also told Bergsten for large equipment, hybrid electric-diesel power is still necessary because battery capacity isn’t advanced enough. For example, at an agriculture show in Paris, Deere featured an all-electric tractor powered by batteries alone. It cost two-to-three times more and needed to be re-charged after only a half-hour in the field.

The company will continue to use new battery technology in small equipment, such as lawn mowers and Gators.