Remote Diagnosis of Agricultural Equipment: A Game-Changer for U.S. Specialty Crop Growers?

Popped over to Internet of Things World in Silicon Valley, CA, last week, and during one talk on heavy equipment, I couldn’t help think about the many concerns I’ve heard from large fruit, nut, and vegetable producers here in the Golden State about getting new high-tech tractors, etc. serviced quickly. Downtime for such high-priced equipment can get expensive, they lament.

Remote Diagnosis of Agricultural Equipment: A Game-Changer for U.S. Specialty Crop Growers?

The audience at Internet of Things World gets a look at the Liebherr 9800 excavator, which, according to Bernd Gross, Chief Technology Officer, Software AG, is the largest such device on the planet. Downtime is horrendously expensive for such equipment, but Gross and colleagues believe the use of IoT, specifically remote diagnostics, can solve the problem and save a lot of money.

$2,000 an hour to be exact. At least that’s the hourly downtime cost for a Liebherr 9800 excavator, which was featured in a video demolishing large buildings, according to Aaron Brown, Senior Engineering Manager, Advanced Innovation for Stanley Black & Decker. Brown and Bernd Gross, Chief Technology Officer, Software AG, gave a talk titled “IoT a Key Enabler for Recurring Revenue Based on Digital Offers.”

The large-acreage, specialty crop growers I talk to are of course interested in the advanced technology becoming available on precision agriculture equipment, but what concerns them is what to do when the unit breaks down. After all, the units are often deployed in vineyards and orchards miles away from any significant population centers.

Enabling IoT on these units can provide many advantages, including productivity tracking, machine optimization, and predictive analytics, but the one that would have been of most interest to large agricultural producers would be remote diagnostics.


Brown, speaking in a thick Australian accent, went over several examples of “Downtime Decimated.” For instance, the unit senses extremely high hydraulic temperatures, then automatically sends an alert to a technician. The technician reviews the data, then communicates with the operator to rectify the situation.

“I can jump on the web portal and immediately diagnose it,” Brown says. “It’s powerful stuff.”

Saving $2,000 an hour? Powerful stuff indeed. IoT is going to be a huge boon to precision agriculture, if nothing else providing producers with peace of mind.

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