John Deere will let farmers fix their own equipment TechCrunch
Here in the United States, John Deere is, in a word, dominant. According to figures from the non-profit antitrust organization The American Economic Liberties Project, the company controls 53% of the market for large tractors in this country and 60% of agricultural combines. It’s not the only game in town, but it’s hard to avoid. This is precisely why the refusal to allow customers to repair its products has been a major concern for farmers.
Over the weekend, Deere and Co. joined the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) in co-signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) designed to open access to repair tools and information.
“This is an issue that has been a priority for us for several years and which has taken a lot of work to get to this point,” said AFBF President Vincent Duvall. “And when you use equipment, we all know that at some point there will be problems. And we had issues with being able to repair our gear where we wanted it, or even repair it on the farm.
Deere SVP David Gilmore adds, “This agreement reaffirms Deere’s long-standing commitment to ensuring our customers have the diagnostic tools and information they need to perform many repairs on their machines. We look forward to working alongside the American Farm Bureau and our customers in the months and years to come to ensure farmers continue to have the tools and resources needed to diagnose, maintain and repair their equipment.
According to the memorandum of understanding:
[Deere] must ensure that any farmer, including any staff or independent technician assisting a farmer at the request of a farmer, and any independent repair center that provides assistance to farmers, has electronic access on fair and reasonable to manufacturer’s tools, specialist tools, software and documentation.
The deal follows mounting pressure from customers to open up repairability, amid complaints that, among other things, systems seem to be failing at a faster rate. Deere previously instructed farmers to visit authorized dealers for repairs. There are still a few caveats here. Among them, Deere will not “disclose any trade secrets, proprietary or confidential information” or “authorize owners or independent repair facilities to override safety devices or emission controls or adjust fuel levels. power of agricultural equipment”.
The news is part of a growing push to empower consumers to fix their own property. Apple, Samsung and Google have all launched their own in-home phone repair programs, while states like New York and Massachusetts have passed their own right to repair laws. A federal version is also in sight.
However, it seems likely that repairs will become more difficult for consumers as Deere looks to robotics for future systems.