John Deere Equipment About to Get Smarter

Brian GermanTechnology

After nearly a year of discussion, John Deere recently announced a $305 million-dollar agreement to buy Blue River Technology, a company specializing in artificial intelligence specifically designed for agriculture.

john deereBased in Sunnyvale, Blue River Technology was started six years ago by two Stanford grad students Jorge Heraud and Lee Redden. The company has already shown success with their See and Spray technology in cotton, which reduces herbicide use by only spraying where weeds are visual. Blue River is also known for LettuceBot, a machine with up to 20 onboard processors making over 5,000 decisions a second while thinning lettuce crops.

A Deere press release states that “Blue River will continue to operate as a standalone business with the same entrepreneurial spirit that has led to its success in applying machine learning to achieve agriculture solutions.”

“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. “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.”

Deere has a history of acquiring innovative technology companies. In 1999 the company bought the global positioning company NavCom Technology, whose firmware became the basis for the satellite guidance systems in Deere machines.

Blue River has been listed on numerous lists that identify the company as one of the most promising ag tech innovators on the market. The company also earned the AE50 Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers for development of the LettuceBot.

“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.”

Deere plans to have the 60-person firm remain in Sunnyvale and the agreement is expected to be finalized later this month.