Deere & Company has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Blue River Technology, a next-generation robotic crop management platform. Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund, a leading growth capital investor in the global agriculture technology sector, sold the portfolio company, Blue River Technology to John Deere, in a deal valued at $305 million.
“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.”
As an innovation leader, Blue River Technology has successfully applied machine learning to agricultural spraying equipment and Deere is confident that similar technology can be used in the future on a wider range of products, May said.
Blue River has designed and integrated computer vision and machine learning technology that 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.
“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.”
Pontifax AgTech led Blue River’s $17.5m Series B funding round in December 2015, with co-investors including Monsanto Growth Ventures, Syngenta Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Innovation Endeavors, and Data Collective.
Already in 2017, 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 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 in September.
May said the investment in Blue River Technology is similar to Deere’s acquisition of NavCom Technology in 1999 that established Deere as a leader in the use of GPS technology for agriculture and accelerated machine connectivity and optimization.