By Chad Braden

I read your article “The Precision Planting Paradox.” I enjoy most of what is in your articles and other content on the Farm Equipment site. On this article, I would have to respectfully disagree.

I worked for John Deere for several years, including in its seeding group. I can assure you that your facts are backwards regarding Precision Planting and the timing of who copied who. I know the history and evolution of both the Eset disk and Exact Emerge vs. Speed Tube.

Fact: John Deere has sold a large sweet corn disc and saw tooth double eliminator since the introduction of the Vacuum Meter in 1984 on 7200/7300 series ME2 Planters. Large Sweet Corn disc was the “ORIGINAL” flat disc. John Deere did not promote flat disc in the vacuum meter because of the high vacuum requirement to run a flat disc. Tractors at the time were the 4430/4630 John Deere tractors with maximum hydraulic pump capacity of 22 gpm and max flow at couplers of 12 gpm. This was not enough flow to run flat discs in planters larger than 12 rows. John Deere was selling 16 and 24 row planters and the time and had to meet the design limitations of the tractors that were in the market. That is why Deere used the small corn and standard corn CELL disc to plant corn. Vacuum requirements were 6-10 inches of water for cell disc vs. flat disc that required 14 inches of water. The relationship of flow and pressure is quadratic — not linear. To get 2x the amount of vacuum requires 4x the flow. Not possible with tractors on the market in the 1980s.

When I worked at Deere, we met with the Precision Planting people on several occasions to discuss planter developments, including one that would meter seed better and provide better spacing than our current cell disc and seed tube. John Deere was building planters with placement of the seed meter on the shank optimized for perfect drop down a seed tube with a CELL DISC — not a flat disc. The exit path of seed from a cell disc vs. a flat disc is very different. John Deere large sweet corn disc is 30 cells. John Deere cell discs are 40 cells. The late model Deere planter meter is located very differently in relationship to the centerline of the seed tube. The John Deere Pro series row unit was first planter from John Deere with meter placement designed for a flat disc. Deere renamed the “large sweet corn disk” the Pro Max 40. Exact same disc with a new name. Good Marketing! 

After meeting with Precision Planting in 2002, we discussed what we saw. The John Deere Seeding engineering group knew that they were using a flat disc and centered the disc drop with the centerline of the seed tube. By this time, tractor hydraulics and scv flow capacity had improved tremendously to the point where it was no longer a limitation to using flat disc design. 

Shortly after our meeting, Precision Planting introduced the Eset meter. It had 3 key components:

1. 40 cells (not 30) so customers could use the same rate chart they were used to with cell discs (Good idea).

2. The eset disc moved the drop point of the seed to the center of the tube to reduce bounce and improve spacing. (Good idea).

3. Eset improved the singulator to adjust to a range of seed sizes automatically vs. the Deere saw tooth eliminator that had to be set for the seed size. (eset mechanical singulator: Benefits: good idea and easy to use. Downside: more expensive, higher wear, uses 80/20 talc/graphite mix that is messy and more expensive, and limited on large seed sizes)

This was not innovation by Precision Planting — but quite simply good understanding of the technology available in the market and the timing of when it was possible to use it. You will find no patents registered for anything pertaining to Eset disc or the mechanical singulator they use. That is because it was all prior art developed by John Deere. They put the combination together in a better package during a time the market was ready to use flat disks and looking for a better way to plant all shapes and sizes of corn.

All patents for Exact Emerge concept are registered to Deere — not Precision Planting. I was at John when we were working on the Exact Emerge concept. It was a “Skunk works” project with a small team of people and very little funding. The need for high speed planting and concept of how to achieve it was developed in the mid ‘90s from an engineering perspective — but affordable, mass produced technology like electric drive meters and row unit controllers (RUC’s) were not available until very recently to make the concept a reality. If you check your timeline — you will see that John Deere introduced Exact Emerge row units before Precision Planting introduced the speed tube. Precision Planting was the company who copied John Deere. If that were not true, then I think Precision would be suing John Deere when in fact — John Deere is suing Precision Planting.

Deere was “dancing’ around the patent infringement issues with Monsanto when they owned PP. They have a very good business relationship with Monsanto as they are very large National Account customer for Deere. Not a good practice to sue a good customer! 

I have been in the dealership — retail world since July 2003. I have been a dealer for Precision Planting, Yield 360 and John Deere. I know both sides of the parties involved and only wish to set the record straight. I witnessed this story and lived it. It is still playing out in the marketplace today.

I have no idea how the lawsuit between Deere and AGCO will play out. It seems the facts don’t matter when two companies meet in court. The winner is usually whoever has the best lawyers!