Growing Greener: AI, Robotics and John Deere

CES Tech Talk podcast, now in season 7, features interviews with experts bringing you an insider’s look at what’s new and trending in consumer technology, and at CES. Subscribe to get the latest episodes.

With self-driving tractors, more than 500,000 connected machines and some of the most advanced technologists in the world, John Deere is tackling one of mankind’s greatest challenges: Feeding a hungry population that’s straining the planet, and a climate, in flux. The 186-year-old enterprise, far more than a farming-equipment concern, has long experience overcoming obstacles that inhibit high crop yields while protecting the environment.
Find out from John Deere’s Crystal Wells how this multinational enterprise – with operations in 30 countries - blends and balances technology, productivity, profitability and conservation. Expect to be surprised by what you didn’t know about farming and sustainability tech in season 7, episode 8, Futuristic Farming: John Deere Ups Yields with AI, Robotics, of the CES Tech Talk podcast series.

Top Five Takeaways

  • Farmers are among the most tech-forward workers in the U.S., embracing new products, systems and services to contend with daunting unknowns associated with weather, labor and other variables that affect their ability to produce.
  • Only 2% of the U.S. population employed in the agricultural sector works in farming some 330 million acres. Of that population, the average age is 55; these men and women work 12 to 18 hours a day. Labor-saving tech such as robotics is a necessity.
  • Massively interconnected sensors enable thrifty farm operations. John Deere combines can continuously adjust to changing conditions on, for example, the ground and in the grain tank. For even greater efficiency, John Deere is working to make combines -- “factories on wheels” -- fully autonomous.
  • John Deere collects and manages data at the seed-by-seed, plant-by-plant, level so that every single aspect of a crop has the best opportunity for maximum output that’s also renewable.
  • Looking ahead, the company is intensely focused on electrification and biodiesel for further efficiencies that help assure an enduring food supply.     

They Said It

“So [at CES 2024], you're going to see AI, you're going to see robotics, and you're going to see them all have real purpose that we're using today to get food, fuel, fiber and infrastructure out there into the world.”
Crystal Wells (07:23)
“This is one of the coolest spaces…if you want to work in tech, applying that into the agricultural space or the construction space. What could be a more meaningful mission? It's also one of the toughest challenges, though. And, so, if we don't have a really diverse set of minds working on those, I'm not sure we can get as far as we want to be.”
Crystal Wells (26:47)

Crystal Wells, Manager for Tech Stack Architecture, John Deere

For John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group (ISG), Crystal leads a team focused on data, digital, electrical systems, embedded precision tech and vehicle technologies. Her group develops production systems from the cloud to the machine. She has held various roles in the engineering and product-development spaces over a 16-year career with John Deere. A passionate advocate for women in engineering, Crystal leads a Women in Product Engineering cohort, annually, dedicated to developing future women leaders in engineering. She holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Platteville and a master’s degree in engineering management from Iowa State University. Crystal earned a certificate in system design and management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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