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20 minutes with William McKnight, John Deere
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20 minutes with William McKnight, John Deere

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Peter Young chats to William McKnight from John Deere about the benefits of new technologies for farmers.
Peter Young chats to William McKnight from John Deere about the benefits of new technologies for farmers.

What benefit can technology deliver to farming?

Technology helps maximise output and drive productivity and helps efficiently manage the inputs. For example, technology in machines can help operators be more productive and accurate over long working days while ensuring a comfortable and safe working environment.

What has been the biggest breakthrough in technology for John Deere?

A key technology revolution began almost 16 years ago when John Deere introduced its AutoTrac guided steering systems. This has now reached a new intelligent technology level with the development of Connected Farming. All elements of a farming or contracting operation can be managed through the web.

What sort of technologies are we likely to see in farming in the years ahead?

Technologies that increase and optimise the total machine efficiency on everything from engine technology and drivetrain components to operator control systems.

We will see higher levels of connectivity between machines, equipment and their operators to ensure both the machine and the operation are fully optimised in terms of productivity and efficiency.

Will we see electric tractors in the future?

Electrification of machines will be part of the future. John Deere has a concept tractor that is fully powered by battery cells capable of producing 130kW of continuous power.

Will farmers be able to afford these machines when the returns from agriculture can be so low?

John Deere will only be successful if our customer base is successful, so we all have a vested interest to ensure farmers can both afford and benefit from the latest and most innovative technology that delivers value and improves the return to farmers.

Why are machines getting more expensive?

Emissions compliance technology has been a key driver of cost from a manufacturing perspective.

How can technology help improve farm incomes?

A very real example is steering guidance systems which can deliver in excess of 10% improvements in productivity by simply minimising overlap.

How has the decline in agricultural commodity prices affected machinery sales?

While the overall volumes have declined, there has been a continued increase in the average horsepower of tractors. We also see an increase in the level of sophistication being purchased. Ireland is now rapidly following the UK market in its adoption of machine guidance systems across all products to help improve both the productivity of machines and the efficient use of inputs.

What is your outlook for 2017?

We look forward with optimism. The firming of milk prices is positive. We expect the machinery industry to remain relatively flat for the remainder of 2017.

  • William will speak at the upcoming Ag Tech Conference on 29 March in the RDS. More information on
  • Ag Tech Conference:

    The inaugural Ag Tech Conference will take place on Wednesday 29 March in the RDS, Dublin 4, and is brought to you by the Irish Farmers Journal.

    Emmet Savage will be speaking at the conference along with many other high profile speakers. For the full list of speakers CLICK HERE.

    Early Bird tickets €109 until 17 March, thereafter €149

    Tickets can be purchased HERE

    For Agri Careers exhibitor discounts please contact 01-4199578 or email

    Keep an eye out here for more information closer to the date or register here to receive email updates.

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