Deere Invests Billions in Self-Driving Tractors, Smart Crop Sprayers

For decades, Deere DE -2.87%? & Co. has dominated the hardware that powers the American farm industry with tractors, harvesters and other machinery used to plant seeds and reap crops.

Now, Deere aims to extend its dominance to software to make those machines—and agriculture—more efficient and productive.

The company this year is rolling out self-driving tractors that can plow fields by themselves, and sprayers that distinguish weeds from crops. Deere, which helped make satellite-guided tractors ubiquitous in the U.S. Farm Belt over the past 20 years, is investing billions of dollars to develop smarter machines that the company said will make farming faster and more efficient than it ever could be with just farmers behind the wheel.

“It’s all about doing more with less,” said John May, Deere’s chief executive.

By the end of the decade, Mr. May projects that 10% of Deere’s annual revenue will come from fees for using software.