blue river lettucebot

John Deere to buy lettuce farming robot maker Blue River Technology

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John Deere, the farming machinery giant, has reached a deal to buy lettuce farming robot maker Blue River Technology for $305 million. 

Blue River also provides a range of other technology solutions – such as a weed killing machine, drone sensing and phenotyping solutions – to the precision agriculture sector, principally using machine learning.

The lettuce farming robot is called LettuceBot, and is one of the company’s newer products.

John May, president, agricultural solutions, and chief information officer at Deere, says: “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. 

“As a leader in precision agriculture, John Deere recognizes the importance of technology to our customers. Machine learning is an important capability for Deere’s future.”

Blue River Technology has applied machine learning to agricultural spraying equipment and May says John Deere is confident that similar technology can be used in the future on a wider range of products.

Blue River has designed and integrated computer vision and machine learning technology that the company says will enable growers to reduce the use of herbicides by spraying only where weeds are present, optimizing the use of inputs in farming – a key objective of precision agriculture.

Jorge Heraud, co-founder and CEO of Blue River Technology, says: “Blue River is advancing precision agriculture by moving farm management decisions from the field level to the plant leve.

“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.”

So far this year, Blue River Technology has been listed among 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.

Deere said it will invest $305 million to fully acquire Blue River Technology.

Deere plans to have the 60-person firm remain in Sunnyvale, California, with an objective to continue its rapid growth and innovation with “the same entrepreneurial spirit that has led to its success”.

The transaction is expected to close some time this month.

May said the investment in Blue River Technology is similar to Deere’s acquisition of NavCom Technology in 1999 that established Deere in the use of GPS technology for agriculture and accelerated machine connectivity and optimization.

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