Tractor manufacturers refuse to ‘go Dutch’ on software

‘Precision Makers’ is a Dutch company that provides, amongst other products, self-steering and autonomous driving kits for retro-fitting to tractors and green-keeping machinery.

To be able to provide these services, the company relies on the goodwill of the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to supply information on the latest machines and any updates to current software.

It appears, however, that at least two tractor manufacturers are now refusing to pass on data that is vital to the operation of these autonomous systems.

Czech outlet Argoportal24h has reported that both John Deere and Fendt have declined to supply the company with material that is essential to its X-pert operating system. This means that it has had to withdraw the product from the market.

No reason was given as to why the two tractor manufacturers have refused to cooperate with Precision Makers.

Indeed, the ongoing roll-out of digital technology for tractors has already caused tensions between manufacturers and end-users (farmers and agricultural contractors).

For example, John Deere is embroiled in a debate over just who owns (and controls) the software in its customers’ tractors. The company insists that it does; such a claim would ensure that it is only John Deere’s own dealers that can then repair or amend them.

Who owns the data?

Elsewhere, Fendt made it quite clear that it sees the data produced by its tractors as falling into either of two categories.

The first is that which is of use to the company in monitoring the machine’s performance and advising of faults. The second is the information that is useful to farmers in the management of their own farms (yield mapping, fuel consumption and so on).

The company feels it has no role in utilising the second category of data, but is willing to work with third parties who may wish to do so.

However, it would now seem that this willingness to engage with other software companies does not extend to sharing knowledge of its own operating systems.