Clayton B. R. Wolfe, Northerly’s CEO, was first drawn to farm life by the tractors. He spent childhood summers on the Saskatchewan homestead. Watching his dad and grandpa operate the big rigs, he dreamed about the day he’d be in the driver’s seat. But it would be years before he knew how the iconic John Deere tractors support sustainable, precision farming.
Over the years, mechanized farming has revolutionized how we grow and harvest food. The 19th century saw the invention of steam engines on wheels. We replaced stables of horses and mules with garages full of high-capacity machines. Once the internal combustion engine hit the market, there was no turning back for farmers.
Feeding a growing population
On top of reducing the time and money required to care for work animals, machines improved productivity. Unlike animals, tractors didn’t get sick or injured. And they elevated the job force by creating a brand new class of worker: the farm mechanic. Farmers suddenly could plant, tend, and harvest more food for a growing population.
For centuries, human innovation has fueled agricultural advancement. Today’s tractors, combines, and sprayers are the result. And John Deere leads the pack when it comes to sustainability, precision, and forward-thinking.
Leading agricultural innovation
Today, John Deere runs operational tests of its precision farming systems on an unassuming patch of land in Bondurant, Iowa. But they’ve been at the forefront of agricultural innovation since they invented the first steel plow in the 1800s. The steel plow, which arguably created America’s breadbasket. It’s been credited with feeding millions, and fundamentally changing farming in America. According to an article by the Smithsonian, “John Deere’s early steel plows represent a key moment in time where Stone Age technology was upgraded into something of which Henry Ford certainly would have been proud.” But their innovation, thankfully, didn’t stop there.
Many consider John Deere the innovation leader when it comes to agricultural technology. A recent study by the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University and the Norwegian School of Economics supports this. Customers consistently rank John Deere higher than Google or Facebook when it comes to innovation. And they’re lauded for their ability to provide customers value.
And for the last 30 years, Northerly has relied on that spirit of innovation to stay at the cutting edge of agricultural technology. From machines to software integration, we rely on John Deere to support our mission: growing better food for more people. And we’re doing it with unprecedented precision.
The importance of top-quality equipment
We’ve already talked about the potential consequences of shoddy or poorly-maintained equipment. A delay of just one-and-a-half hours could be the difference between a successful harvest and stalks of grain rotting in the field. That’s why it’s critical to trust your equipment and its ability to perform when you need it.
Here at Northerly, we’ve spared no expense and cut no corners to ensure all of our equipment is top-quality—tractors, combines, and sprayers alike. Thanks to this equipment, and the expert team that runs it, our farm alone can provide 125 million servings of food, every single year. That’s incredible compared to where we began.
According to remark by John Deere’s Chief Economist, J.B. Penn, “In 1850, 100 bushels of corn required 83 labor hours and 2.5 acres of land. Today, we only need two labor hours and 0.6 of an acre. A modern combine can harvest 350 acres of corn per day — that is 4,500 bushels per hour—and it can unload 3.8 bushels per second.”
These days, a John Deere STS combine can harvest enough wheat in an 8-hour day to make a million 1-pound loaves of bread. That’s incredible progress as we look to the realities of feeding the future.
John Deere’s sustainability mission
But it’s not enough to improve outputs and optimize harvest speeds if we’re killing the earth to do it. That’s why John Deere’s sustainability mission is just as important—if not more so—as their machines’ performance.
Sustainability is deeply rooted in John Deere’s identity and remains a driving force behind every advancement they make. And just like for Northerly, sustainability isn’t just about how food is grown. It’s about protecting the earth and natural resources, building healthy economies and communities, supporting their workforce, and ensuring everybody has access to affordable, responsibly-grown food.
Plus, by partnering with companies whose values align with ours, we’re able to reduce or repurpose agricultural waste. This keeps our company grounded in environmentally-responsible practices.
Advanced equipment for safer employees
True, our machines makes us more efficient land and resource guardians. But it also helps prevent workplace injuries and keeps our employees safe. We’ve said before that sustainability means supporting healthy, happy employees. That means never cutting corners and preventing injuries wherever we’re able.
Historically, farming has ranked as one of the top ten most dangerous occupations. From minor cuts, scrapes, and burns to more severe accidents, with machinery, farmworkers put their life and limb on the line to help feed their communities.
Thankfully, John Deere’s innovative smart technology also improves worker safety. Our John Deere equipment comes outfitted with the latest safety features. These include better visibility, improved operator comfort, better control placement, and ride quality. Hands-free, steer assist technology makes the operating system simpler and safer. Plus we’re able to automate a lot of our processes. That means the pre-dawn to post-sundown working hours of farm life are a thing of the past.
Thanks to advancements in agricultural technology, our team gets to spend less time in the fields and more time with their families.
There’s an app for that: data in ag tech
Of course, precision agriculture is about more than just equipment and machinery. There are science and data, which come from agricultural apps and advanced software programs. At Northerly, we rely on our John Deere tech to help us make informed, precise decisions.
John Deere Field Connect™
This hardware allows us to track moisture levels, rainfall, humidity, air temperature, and even lead wetness. With this information, we can continually monitor the moisture levels in the root zone of our crops, so we know exactly how much water they’re absorbing. This level of data allows us to make real-time adjustments and reduce water consumption. Optimized soil moisture also boosts our crops’ ability to absorb fertilizers, meaning we can use less while still growing high-yield, high-quality crops. We’re using less to grow more, sustainably.
CropIntelligence turns data into decision-making
We manage the information gathered from John Deere Field Connect™ using an app called CropIntelligence. The app interprets the data and helps us calculate the best way to proceed. This is crucial because data without action is just numbers on a screen. Being able to crunch those numbers quickly and accurately, helps us make more informed decisions.
Integration with farm management software, Granular
Another useful tool that John Deere gives us is JDLink Connect. JDLink Connect seamlessly communicates with our farm management software. This allows us to see crop yield and financial predictions side-by-side, in real-time. Not only does this help us strategically plan each year at Northerly, but it also gives us a three thousand mile view. With this clarity, we can prepare the land and collect best practice data for the next generation of sustainable farmers.
New horizons for ag tech
With a food crisis looming on the horizon, advances in agricultural technology may hold the key to humanity’s continued success. Today, John Deere is developing entirely autonomous machines and tractors. Plus, they’re working on implements controlled by sophisticated sensors and guidance systems. We’re only beginning to realize the enormous potential these machines have.
Plus, AI and machine learning are changing our understanding of farm management.
Imagine if, as farmers, we could check the health of each stalk, leaf, or root on each plant in our fields. Soon, that may be possible. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing the way we approach crop management. We’re not farming reactively. We’re proactively farming, which makes every single centimeter of land more productive.
Northerly proudly supports the John Deere mission
Just like Northerly, John Deere is here to feed the world. J.B. Penn noted in his 2016 address to U.S. government officials, “It is great to be able to have meaningful careers in an industry with such a higher calling—helping to feed the world’s growing and increasingly affluent population — the challenge of our time — and perhaps of all times.”
We couldn’t agree more.
For the curious gearheads out there, Northerly currently employs a fleet of the following: