Farm Equip Manufacturers Hope to Lure Silicon Valley Tech Workers

Big agricultural and construction equipment manufacturers in the American Midwest are on a mission to lure Silicon Valley tech workers who have been caught up in a wave of hiring freezes and layoffs.

Mass layoffs at major tech firms have opened the talent pipeline for Illinois-based Deere & Co. and rivals who are eager to add tech workers to their payrolls as they expand into autonomous tractors, mining trucks, and smart farming technology.

With an abundance of jobs, the companies are offering remote work arrangements and opening new offices in major cities like Austin, San Francisco and Chicago, a potentially attractive draw for workers who don’t want to move to smaller Midwestern cities, where many of the companies are based.

The executives said the newly available tech talent could inject much-needed expertise into farm equipment manufacturing, helping to transform the industry through the use of more artificial intelligence and automation.

Historically, it has been difficult for construction and agriculture equipment manufacturers to compete with Silicon Valley compensation packages, Scott Wine, chief executive of CNH Industrial (CNH), an American-Italian machinery maker, said in an interview.

“They were sucking so much oxygen out of the air because of their significant budgets,” Wine said. “Now, they’re not hiring and they’re firing – so it just means we’re getting a much larger pool of potential candidates that we can call upon.”

CNH hired more than 350 engineers last year, some of whom came from Amazon and Microsoft Corp, Wine said. CNH expects to spend more than $1.4 billion in research and development as the company scales precision agriculture offerings in 2023, he added.

The combine harvester producer has increased its focus on agriculture in recent years to meet farmers’ equipment demand, stacking its tech workforce with highly skilled workers in automation and artificial intelligence.

Thousands of workers have left or been laid off from tech giants Amazon, Microsoft and others during the biggest purge of tech talent since the dot-com crash of the late 1990s. Large tech companies shed more than 150,000 workers in 2022. During the COVID-19 pandemic, big tech firms hired aggressively to capitalize on advertising dollars as lock-downs prompted a surge in social media.

The goal is to offer prospective employees the best of both worlds: work from home or come to a city office that more closely resembles a Silicon Valley tech campus.