Tractors and the Right to Repair: It’s Going Global

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For more than a few years we have covered the saga of tractors from the major manufacturers, where all components are locked by software to such an extent that they can only be replaced by officially sanctioned dealers. So we’re excited to see a few moments when the story broke out of the field of some farmers and repair freaks and into the mainstream. First off, a section on this topic from NPR is worth listening to as the U.S. public radio station interviews a Montana farmer who was hit by a $ 5,000 fuel sensor on his John Deere to investigate the issue. Then there is a blog post from the National Farmers Union, the body that represents British farmers, in which they also explain the situation and also highlight the data-collecting aspects of these machines.

(At the time of publication, we mistakenly attributed the blog post to the UK NFU, even though it was actually from the American organization of the same name. Thanks to the commentators for pointing this out.)

The last piece is particularly interesting as it not only breaks the story from the US, but also because the NFU is the largest farmers’ organization in the UK, representing farmers from across the UK agriculture sector. Their influence as a political interest group is not insignificant. So if they deal with this issue, it could lead to it being heard in the corridors of power.

Most of the coverage has focused on John Deere tractors but goes beyond the familiar green and yellow machines. At its roots lies the vast majority of larger tractor construction with a very small number of multinational companies, each of which is pursuing similarly problematic software-based approaches. Laws to limit their size are one way out of the problem, but perhaps another way for an operator to gain an advantage. A Hackaday acquaintance in the forklift industry told the story of a Far Eastern manufacturer who gained market share by using a similarly simple part swap as a selling point, maybe it is time the same thing happened in agriculture. If it takes one of the newer large Chinese tractors that arrives in a field in Kansas to catch Deere or Agco napping, it’s your own fault.

Read some of our previous reports on the soaring prices of older non-DRM machines and an attempt to curb the practice in Nebraska.

Header image: AGCO-Fendt, CC BY-SA 4.0.


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