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Interview with Aaron Wetzel of John Deere, New GHI Board Member
Aaron, tell us a bit about how you became involved in agriculture and your role at John Deere.
I grew up on a farm in central Illinois where we grew corn and soybeans primarily. I wanted to have a career in agriculture, but the 1980s were a tough time for farmers, so I decided to study accounting and finance to give myself a broader range of opportunities. As it happens, in 1988 I was hired as a summer intern in the accounting department at John Deere and was hired full-time as an accountant in 1990, so I was able to pursue my interest in agriculture after all.
|“John Deere products are designed for efficiency and productivity…[By] incorporating innovative technology, we’re able to offer machines that…also demonstrate a deep respect for the environment.” John Deere, Environmental Stewardship|
This is my 28th year at John Deere and I have worked in many disciplines within the company, including accounting and sales and marketing in the Agriculture and Turf Division and for the Global Crop Care Platform, which includes products for spraying, tillage, planting and seeding. In 2012, I became Vice President, A&T Global Platform, Crop Care, for the Agriculture & Turf Division and have responsibility for the design, manufacture, and sourcing of the crop care platform of products for Deere’s global agriculture and turf equipment operations.
GHI’s 2016 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®) describes how precision agriculture technologies are helping farmers increase their productivity and sustainability. How do they help farmers conserve natural resources and improve the profitability of their farms?
Precision ag is all about helping producers do more on their land by giving them tools for precise placement of seeds, fertilizer, water and crop protection products. Precision placement technologies and other data solutions allow farmers to maximize productivity while using the minimum amount of inputs and conserving essential natural resources such as water.
In-field sensors record data on temperature, rainfall, soil conditions and plant growth and GPS guided tractors and machinery allow farmers to give their crops just what they need when they need it. This reduces the amount they need to apply and helps them control costs. Precision systems also enable farmers to manage and track, year after year, the productivity of each field and design strategies to maximize productivity and profitability.
Farmers of all scales can benefit from precision agriculture innovations. What is John Deere doing in places like Africa and India to bring affordable, locally adaptable precision technologies to small and medium-scale farmers?
Deere operates in 160 countries, working with farmers of all scales to improve their productivity. In India, John Deere is helping emerging farmers access mechanization products and precision technologies. In Kenya and Ghana we are partnering with Technoserve to bring training and inputs to farmers in remote areas through our Mobile Training Unit initiative. (For more information on these programs see pages 35 and 46 of the 2016 GAP Report®.)
I spent the last 10 years living abroad and I have seen first-hand how Deere’s innovations are changing the lives of farmers. By embracing new technologies and practices, farmers of all scales are producing more and expanding their businesses. It reminds me of my relatives who came to the U.S. in the nineteenth-century. They started small, but thanks to their hard work and ability to access mechanization, they were able to grow more and prosper.
How do you plan to advance food security efforts through your role on the board of directors of the Global Harvest Initiative?
John Deere is a founding member of GHI and I have very pleased to be representing the company on GHI’s Board of Directors. Agriculture must meet some significant challenges in the coming decades, but we also have the tools to meet those challenges. GHI is great platform for building awareness of opportunities we have in agriculture to improve our productivity and sustainability. I look forward to contributing to their efforts.