Tractor giant Deere & Company is to acquire Bear Flag Robotics for $250 million to convert its existing equipment into fully autonomous tractors and harvesters.
Founded in 2017, the Silicon Valley-based startup develops autonomous driving technology compatible with existing machines and has raised $11.4m from investors. Deere bought AI seed planting company Blue River Technology for $305m in 2017.
The deal accelerates John Deere's long-term strategy and create a major competitor to European autonomous equipment makers such as Claas and New Holland which are developing autonomous systems.
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"Deere views autonomy as an important step forward in enabling farmers to leverage their resources strategically to feed the world and create more sustainable and profitable operations," said Jahmy Hindman, Chief Technology Officer at John Deere.
"Bear Flag's team of talented agriculture professionals, engineers and technologists have a proven ability to deliver advanced technology solutions to market. Joining that expertise and experience with Deere's expertise in autonomy, along with our world-class dealer channel, will accelerate the delivery of solutions to farmers that address the immense challenge of feeding a growing world."
Deere first started working with Bear Flag in 2019 as part of the company's Startup Collaborator program, an initiative focused on enhancing work with startup companies whose technology could add value for Deere customers. Since then, Bear Flag has successfully deployed its autonomous solution on a limited number of farms in the US.
"One of the biggest challenges farmers face today is the availability of skilled labour to execute time-sensitive operations that impact farming outcomes. Autonomy offers a safe and productive alternative to address that challenge head on," said Igino Cafiero, co-founder and CEO of Bear Flag Robotics. "Bear Flag's mission to increase global food production and reduce the cost of growing food through machine automation is aligned with Deere's and we're excited to join the Deere team to bring autonomy to more farms."
The Bear Flag team consists of agriculture professionals, engineers and technologists focused on autonomy, sensor fusion, vision, data, software and hardware. They will remain in Silicon Valley where they will work closely with Deere to accelerate innovation and autonomy for customers across the world.
"Deere and Bear Flag are highly complementary from both a technology and mission perspective," said Dan Leibfried, Director – Automation & Autonomy at Deere. "We look forward to working even closer together with the ultimate goal of helping farmers achieve the best possible outcomes through advanced technology like autonomy."
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