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Deere to advance machine learning capabilities in acquisition

Technology will enable growers to reduce use of herbicides by spraying only where weeds are present.

Deere & Co. has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Blue River Technology, a leader in applying machine learning to agriculture that is based in Sunnyvale, Cal.

"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 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, thus 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 chief executive officer 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."

Already in 2017, Blue River has been listed among Inc. Magazine's 25 Most Disruptive Companies, Fast Co.'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 & Biological Engineers.

Deere said it will invest $305 million to fully acquire Blue River. Deere plans for the 60-person firm to remain in Sunnyvale, 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 is similar to Deere's acquisition of NavCom Technology in 1999 that established Deere as a leader in the use of global positioning system technology for agriculture and accelerated machine connectivity and optimization.

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