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Joint venture promises to better serve farmers

January 19, 2024  - By
Trimble's WeedSeeker 2 automatic spot spray system uses advanced optics and processing power to detect and eliminate resistant weeds. (Image: Trimble)

Trimble’s WeedSeeker 2 automatic spot spray system uses advanced optics and processing power to detect and eliminate resistant weeds. (Image: Trimble)

In September 2023, Trimble announced an agreement to form a joint venture (JV) with AGCO “to better serve farmers with factory fit and aftermarket applications in the mixed fleet precision agriculture market.” I discussed the announcement with David Britton, vice president of product management, Trimble Agriculture.

Your press release says “Trimble and AGCO’s shared vision is to create a global leader in mixed fleet, smart farming, and autonomy solutions.” What does mixed fleet mean in this context?

That’s focused on the farmers’ ability to use any brand of tractor or implement together. As you can imagine, there are multiple OEMs in the market. One of the beliefs that Trimble’s had, and that AGCO shares, and why this JV makes sense, is that the farmers’ decisions around what technology they use and the way that their farms operate shouldn’t be inextricably tied to the brand of tractor that they use.

So, they could use an AGCO tractor, but with a GNSS receiver that’s not from Trimble or vice versa?

More so that on their farm they could have equipment from AGCO and other OEMs. In many cases, they’ll have more than one tractor and multiple different implements.

Those machines can talk to each other and share the data.

Ideally, yes.

Image: Trimble

Image: Trimble

What will be the division of labor between Trimble and AGCO? How will the interface work?

The JV will not be involved with any of the tractor manufacturing, which will stay within AGCO. We’re going to be focused on the precision ag technology that will go into the tractor, help manage the implements, and complete the work, as well as the data systems that underpin that.

Currently, Trimble Ag has capabilities on embedded display software that are used to help manage activities in the field and steer the vehicle. We also have cloud software that allows farmers to manage their information and data and work with other people in their ecosystem, as well as many other things. That’s all going into the JV. Trimble will supply GNSS technology to the JV, which is a foundation to enable geolocating the information in the activities.

Then you have JCA Industries [which AGCO acquired in 2022] that has been focused on implement control and autonomy. So, the two businesses are complementary. They are coming together to focus on higher technology components and then work with both AGCO as well as other manufacturers and the aftermarket to deliver smart farming and autonomy solutions into the farm to help farmers run their businesses and farms more efficiently.

Tell me more about the aftermarket.

One of the key things that we’ve seen historically, and we expect the trend to continue, is that you’ll see innovation happen in the aftermarket first, because it gives a chance to rapidly iterate and learn before you go through the process of putting it into the factory. We expect that we’ll have a very healthy aftermarket business, as well as a portion of the business where our technology will be factory-fit into machines from both AGCO and other manufacturers, because that’s been an important part of the Trimble business. Being able to work with other OEMs to provide important technologies will be a part of that story.

Are you still expecting the deal to close in the first half of 2024?

That’s still the target.

Will the JV sell anything or will it be totally transparent to the user?

The JV will have its own channel to the aftermarket, as well as people working with OEMs from a sales perspective. In terms of branding, that’s something that’s being evaluated right now. Ultimately, the JV will have a channel to the aftermarket and we also have our own relationships with OEMs through which we will continue to sell. So, the end customers should be aware that they’re purchasing technology that has been built by the JV.

Under a name or branding that is still to be determined?

Yes.

Over time, the JV will become the main way for Trimble to sell its precision ag equipment.

Correct. Trimble will go into the ag market primarily through the JV.

Will Trimble also continue to sell to other OEMs other than AGCO?

Trimble will sell ag equipment to other ag OEMs via the JV.

Image: Trimble

Image: Trimble

Does that mean that AGCO, through the JV, will sell equipment to some of its competitors?

My understanding is they already have businesses that do that currently. Their Precision Planting business works with other OEMs as well as other businesses that they’ve brought into the AGCO family. So, it’s not new for AGCO to have a part of the business that is selling to OEMs in some ways. Trimble has some experience with that as well.

We recognize that it’ll be important for our customers to trust that their data is being managed appropriately. That said, it’s a great way for other OEMs to have access to scale. As we talk about what needs to happen for precision ag to realize the opportunity that comes with technology, scale is going to become increasingly important, which I think is a part of why this JV is so exciting for both Trimble and AGCO. Ultimately, it should be exciting for farmers as well because it’s going to create a very well scaled business that can help provide technology very effectively.

Who will collect, aggregate, analyze, and control the data? How will farmers access it?

We’ll continue to work with the end customers and to find ways that we can ensure that they have the right access to and ownership of their data, while also looking for ways that we can use anonymized data to enhance product functionality.

Is that an opt in or an opt out?

The JV’s policy on that has not been determined yet.

For which crops or scenarios do you expect the greatest adoption of the JV’s technology?

There are places where you see the adoption of precision ag technology more than others, in terms of larger scale farms and high value crops. Ultimately, we take pride in being a global business, which means that we’re thinking about all areas of the globe, as well as multiple crop types. So, every region has crops that are particularly important to it. We try very much to build solutions that fit those local markets, while also leveraging what we can from a scale perspective. There isn’t one particular crop type or one particular region that dominates our thinking at this point.

Trimble has its RTX correction service. Does AGCO have its own?

Trimble will keep RTX but also make it available to the JV and to AGCO, which does not have its own solution. So, RTX is a very good fit. That’s one of the benefits you see in the JV. We’ve already been working with them from an RTX perspective on receivers that we’ve provided. So, we’re more excited to continue that through the JV.

Will the JV come up with any new tiers for corrections?

The JV will work with Trimble to come up with what’s right for the market. As you’ve seen RTX evolve over the years, we’ll continue that process working with Trimble to figure out the right tiers and the right solution for what the farmers need.

About the Author: Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at mluccio@northcoastmedia.net or 541-543-0525.