JOHN Deere has announced plans to launch an autonomous electric tractor suited to horticultural use in 2026 following its purchase of a majority stake in Austrian-based battery-technology provider Kreisel Electric.
However, a year is yet to be announced for the roll-out in Australia of larger electric John Deere models suited to broadacre cropping.
“Machinery of this kind will create a monumental shift, not only for John Deere as a manufacturer, but also for Australian agriculture,” John Deere Australia and New Zealand production system manager Steph Gersekowski said earlier this month at Hort Connections 2022 event in Brisbane earlier this month.
“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.”
Ms Gersekowski said John Deere had prioritised electric and autonomous research and development, working with both innovators and industry, to deliver transformational advancements.
“A trial with a prototype of the battery electric utility tractor will soon commence on Australian farms to extensively test the equipment under our nation’s unique farming conditions.”
“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.”
“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.”
Kreisel Electric is considered a global leader in high-density, high-durability battery modules and packs.
“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.”
John Deere sees a major benefit of the autonomous tractor as helping the horticulture industry counter the immense 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.”
“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.”
Ms Gersekowski said John Deere customer research indicated high-value crop producers were eager to adopt electric machinery, with up to 70 per cent of horticulture farmers indicating they would like to purchase an electric option.
“Rather than a futuristic ideal, electrification has become today’s expectation.”
In announcing its signing of an agreement to purchase a majority stake in Kreisel Electric in December last year John Deere Power Systems senior vice president Pierre Guyot said building an electrified portfolio was key to John Deere’s sustainability goal of pursuing new technologies.
These aim to reduce the environmental impact of new products and work toward zero emissions propulsion systems on equipment, while increasing our customers’ efficiency and productivity.
“Kreisel’s battery technology can be applied across the broad portfolio of Deere products, and Kreisel’s in-market experience will benefit Deere as we ramp up our battery-electric vehicle portfolio,” Mr Guyot said.
“Deere will provide the expertise, global footprint, and funding to enable Kreisel to continue its fast growth in core markets.”
Kreisel Electric is retain its employees, brand name, and trademark, and continue to operate from its current location at Rainbach im Mühlkreis to serve its growing customer base.
The company was founded in 2014 by brothers Johann, Markus, and Philipp Kreisel, and employs around 180 full-time staff.
John Deere has stated it sees demand growing for batteries as a sole- or hybrid-propulsion system for off-highway vehicles.
Products in Deere’s portfolio such as turf equipment, compact utility tractors, small tractors, compact construction, and some road building equipment could rely solely on batteries as a primary power source.
Deere intends to continue to invest in and develop technologies to innovate, deliver value to customers, and work towards a future with zero emissions propulsion systems.
Source: John Deere, Kreisel Electric