Agricultural equipment giant John Deere has acquired an artificial intelligence and computer vision startup to help the nearly two-century-old company modernize its agricultural technology and meet current sustainability and food production challenges. As part of a larger push to embrace “precision agriculture,” recently launched John Deere Labs acquired Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Blue River Technology in a deal worth $305 million.
Founded in 2011 by two Stanford University Alumni, Blue River uses machine learning technology, computer vision and smart devices to identify weeds so that only the areas which need to be sprayed with pesticides are targeted. The company says it can reduce the use of chemicals by an approximate 95%, while also improving yield.
Moline, IL-based John Deere has been focusing on precision agriculture over the past two decades, using technology in order to better target crops and soil for optimum productivity and health. With new advances in AI, farm equipment now has the power to significantly reduce costs for growers by automating labor-intensive aspects of farming and reducing waste of inputs such as water, fertilizer and pesticides.
The news comes just five months after John Deere scrapped its proposed purchase of Monsanto’s precision planting subsidiary due to anti-trust concerns. The agtech startup has raised a total of $30.35 million in funding from backers including Monsanto’s venture capital arm, along with Data Collective, Innovation Endeavors, Kholsa Ventures and Pontifax Agtech.
“Blue River is advancing precision agriculture by moving farm management decisions from the field level to the plant level," said 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."