Ag machinery giant gears up in support of the growing horticulture industry

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John Deere Production Systems Manager, Stephanie Gersekowski.
Camera IconJohn Deere Production Systems Manager, Stephanie Gersekowski. Credit: britt spring/supplied/John Deere

Ag machinery giant John Deere is backing the Australian horticultural industry as it pushes towards a production value of $18.2 billion in the next two years.

The company has reached out to the industry at this week’s Hort Connections event at the Adelaide Convention Centre, where it has highlighted its semi-autonomous spraying joint venture with California-based tech company GUSS, and talked up its 5ML Series cab tractors set to arrive in Australia later in the year.

John Deere Australia and New Zealand production systems manager Stephanie Gersekowski said her team were keen to demonstrate the company’s commitment to supporting producers of high value crops with technology and equipment that will help the industry meet its challenges and grasp the opportunities ahead.

“The value of horticulture production is forecast to reach a new record of $18.2 billion in 2023 to 2024, with fruit and nut production expected to drive much of these gains,” Ms Gersekowski said..

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“Labour availability remains a challenge and we know there is an ever-growing need for the farm sector to do more with less.”

John Deere’s focus on intelligent, semi-autonomous spraying to support high value crop production is reflected by its joint venture with GUSS, which had a unit and representatives on-site at the John Deere display at Hort Connections.

Using GUSS technology, multiple machines can be remotely controlled by a single operator and use a sophisticated combination of GPS and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology, vehicle sensors, and software, to move and navigate through orchards and vineyards.

“Traditionally, using GPS guidance under orchards and vineyards canopies has been challenging, but GUSS has overcome this issue by developing several additional technologies, including vehicle sensors and software to supplement GPS and guide GUSS safely and efficiently through crops,” Ms Gersekowski said.

California-based technology company, GUSS Automation, will be at the John Deere Hort Connections stand to discuss spraying automation and their joint venture with John Deere.
Camera IconCalifornia-based technology company, GUSS Automation, will be at the John Deere Hort Connections stand to discuss spraying automation and their joint venture with John Deere. Credit: Nate Luke/Field

“With the ability for operators to control up to eight sprayers at once, GUSS equipment provides productivity gains by reducing pressure to find skilled operators, while also using fewer resources and reducing costs by eliminating operator error and downtime.”

She said one of the most significant new product releases for the crop sector would be the John Deere 5ML Series of cab tractors, due to arrive in Australia later this year.

With two front-axle configurations for working widths as narrow as 180cm (71 inches) and down to 155cm (61 inches) on the 5ML Narrow, the 5ML will make available a machine carrying premium features at a size suited to exacting applications.

“We are excited to bring the 5ML to Australia to respond directly to the needs of growers looking for a low-profile cab, more power and industry-leading digital capabilities typically available on machines in larger agriculture production systems, including JDLink,” Ms Gersekowski said.

Both the 5ML and 5ML Narrow come equipped with programmable LED lighting, a front hitch to ensure operators can use heavier implements such as almond harvesters, and a front PTO for added versatility.

There is also the choice of an easy-to-use PowrQuad PLUS or Powr8 transmission and a new Limb Lifter kit can be added to gently move away low hanging branches, reducing the potential for damage to the tree and tractor.

Ms Gersekowski said the Smart-Apply Intelligent Spray Control System was also available.

The system provides horticulture producers an add-on kit for tow-behind air-blast sprayers, to reduce the potential for chemical drift and decrease the amount of product applied by adjusting spray volume based on canopy density using LiDAR technology.

“Most sprayers today apply a blanket spray, even between trees, while Smart-Apply adjusts spray volume based on tree canopy density and shuts off completely between trees, providing an enormous chemical saving for producers,” Ms Gersekowski said.

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