Having watched the Jetsons as a kid, I was sure by now I would have a flying car and a robot who did all my housework. I’m still waiting on my flying car, but with Roombas and iMow, we do have the robots to do some of our household chores (but without the sassiness of Rosie). 

For this issue’s special report, we decided to take out our crystal ball and look at what agriculture, and more specifically the farm equipment dealership business, will look like in 2030. A large part of that will be driven by the changing demographics of customers and how they want to do business and their expectations of the dealer. 

While a lot may change, one thing young farmers say won’t change is their expectations for strong customer service from their dealers. Proving the value and ROI of an equipment purchase will also continue to grow in importance.  

But, as Paige Wittman, co-owner of Miller Wittman Retail Design Group, a firm who works with designing facilities for dealers, by 2030 dealers will have 4 generations of customers coming into their stores. That means being focused on technology for the younger generations, but also taking things like ADA compliance into consideration for the older generations, she says. Another component to that is the equipment itself and other technological advances (think drone parts delivery).

Electric vehicles (EV), while only a small percentage of today’s market, are becoming more prevalent. I’ve started to see charging stations pop up at some gas stations, but they are by no means commonplace yet. But, how far off are we? And when does EV technology make the jump to the ag equipment world?

According to a report on the electric vehicle market by MarketsAndMarkets, in 2019 the EV market had 3,269,671 units worldwide, and is projected to reach nearly 27 million by 2030. Adoption will likely be slower in agriculture, but the work is already being done. In fact, back in 2017 Ag Equipment Intelligence reported on steps some OEMs were taking in developing electric-powered tractors, including the Fendt e100 Vario and Deere’s SESAM (Sustainable energy Supply for Agricultural Machinery) all-electric tractor. They are far from being on every farm at this point, but the R&D work is being done that suggests that day may be sooner rather than later. That shift to battery powered equipment will mean that the skills required for service equipment will continue to evolve. 

As the technology on equipment evolves (be it with electrification or autonomy), the expectations and requirements of the service department will evolve as well and facilities may need to incorporate charging stations, whether that’s for customer and staff vehicles or the equipment they are selling and servicing. 

Do you think what you sell at your dealership today will be the same as what you are selling in the future? CoBank analyst Ken Zuckerburg doesn’t think so. He predicts that in the future, dealerships are going to have to sell more than iron, and that includes things like seed and chemicals an selling services like custom application. You can read more of his predictions.

Right now, there may be more questions than answers to what the future of the ag equipment business looks like. But, dealers will need to be nimble as they work with customers still committed to the old way and those who are eager to jump into the future.