John Deere targets low- to highest-tech South African farmers

18 May 2023

by Lloyd Phillips

John Deere is showcasing some of its simplest to its most advanced products at the 2023 Nampo Harvest Day exhibition, and with farmers at all scales and types of production and with different budgets, in mind.

World-renowned agricultural machinery brand, John Deere, assures all South African farmers that its products and financing models are most definitely focused on from the smallest to the largest farming segments, and for all seasons. This was a recurring theme among all John Deere’s representatives during a media briefing at the Nampo agricultural exhibition taking place this week.

Standing in the middle of the brand’s impressively huge and diverse exhibit outside Bothaville in the Free State, John Deere’s managing director in Africa and the Middle East, Jaco Beyers, says the brand’s machines are increasingly using differing types and degrees of technology. This is to enable farmers at all scales, budgets and production types to be more productive and efficient.

“Farming is not just a buzzword. It empowers people and society in a world that is facing huge challenges for producing enough food (and fibre) for growing populations in the midst of climate change,” Jaco explains.

Lucas Groenewald, John Deere South Africa’s division sales manager, says that his company is not just about “big machines” for only those farmers who can afford them. He cites the example of the new John Deere 5080 EN narrow tractor that is ideal for orchards, vineyards and field production of certain fresh produce crops.

Groenewald adds that South African farmers looking for an “all-rounder” tractor should consider the John Deere 6140B six-cylinder model.

“Before we put them on the market, we first test all our products to make sure they are suitable for South Africa’s particular farming conditions,” he says.

John Deere South Africa’s financial operations manager, Fortune Mathiba, says that he and his colleagues understand that many of the country’s farmers, especially those who are starting out or are at smaller production scales, often have limited finances. These latter farmers can negotiate preferential financing with John Deere. This is not limited to only the brand’s tractors, but for a range of other machines and implements commonly essentially to establishing, maintaining and expanding a farming enterprise.

Janalize van Buuren, John Deere’s director of aftermarket and customer support for the Africa, Middle East, India and Asia-Pacific regions, says that the brand’s technicians in South Africa are sufficiently skilled and equipped to tackle any problems with all John Deere products and systems in the country. When necessary, these technicians even have remote access to support and guidance from even more specialized technicians situated off-site.

She adds, “We know that farmers simply cannot afford to have lengthy breakdowns of our machines in the middle of important tasks. We have technologies and parts available for our products that may already be over 20 years old to those that are the latest and most high-tech.”

At Nampo, John Deere is introducing the ultra-high-tech autonomous Global Unmanned Spray System (GUSS) sprayer for orchards, vineyards and tree crops. GUSS’s original chief engineer, Chase Schapansky, tells African Farming it takes only one person to be able to remotely oversee eight of these self-driving and -spraying machines as they work simultaneously. A “nurse cart” is the ninth vehicle required to refuel or refill each machine with liquid chemicals as necessary.

Chase explains that a GUSS can operate 24 hours a day if needs be. If chemicals are being applied that may be harmful to beneficial pollinator insects, like bees, a GUSS can be tasked to only spray throughout the night hours when these insects are inactive and hiding within an overnight refuge.

“This GUSS unit here at Nampo is the first ever on the African continent. Over 1 000 units have already been sold in the USA. It is exclusive to John Deere and it will become available to the South African market once it has been sufficiently field-tested here, and once there is sufficient back-up support and market interest,” he says.

Visitors to the 2023 Nampo Harvest Day exhibition currently taking place in the Free State, can watch a live display of the ultra-high-tech Global Unmanned Spray System (GUSS) at John Deere’s exhibit. Video: Deon van Wyk

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