Deere to acquire machine learning leader Blue River Technology

Deere & Company is investing in machine learning for farm equipment, announcing a US$305 million deal to fully acquire Blue River Technology.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with a Blue River Technology team that is highly skilled and intensely dedicated to rapidly advancing the implementation of machine learning in agriculture,” said John May, President, Agricultural Solutions, and Chief Information Officer at Deere.

May says he sees similarities between acquisition of the Sunnyvale, California-based machine learning company and Deere’s acquisition of NavCom Technology in 1999, which turned Deere into a leader in the use of GPS guidance.

As one example, Blue River has applied its ‘see & spray’ technology to spraying equipment for cotton, using sensors and machine learning to only spray herbicides where weeds are present. May says they’re confident that similar technology can be used on a wider range of products.

Blue River has been widely recognized for its innovation, including being named one of Inc. Magazine’s 25 Most Disruptive Companies, Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, CB Insights 100 Most Promising Artificial Intelligence Companies in the World, and the Top 50 Agricultural Innovations by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers — in 2017 alone.

“Blue River is advancing precision agriculture by moving farm management decisions from the field level to the plant level,” says Jorge Heraud, co-founder and CEO of Blue River Technology. “We are using computer vision, robotics, and machine learning to help smart machines detect, identify, and make management decisions about every single plant in the field.”

Prior to starting Blue River, Heraud worked at Trimble Navigation for 14 years, heading Trimble’s Precision Agriculture group.

Deere says it plans to keep the 60-person firm in Sunnyvale “with an objective to continue its rapid growth and innovation with the same entrepreneurial spirit that has led to its success.” The deal is expected to close before the end of September.

 

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