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John Deere will tap into AI for more efficient crop sprayers. (Image credit John Deere)


AI isn’t limited to robots, computer science or education as it’s being implemented in nearly all facets of industry, including farming. Of course, its application in this area is hardly new either as it’s being tasked to help grow better tomatoes, helping to identify crop diseases and used to analyze satellite data to help farmers become prosperous (among a few others). Legendary farming equipment manufacturer John Deere is also utilizing AI to enhance their agricultural spraying equipment.


The farming company recently announced the acquisition of Blue River Technology- an institution that deals in AI machine learning and computer vision for efficient farming. In the press release, Deere CIO John May stated, “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. 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.” He backed up that statement with $305-million in capital to gain the AI company, which will be completed later this month.



So, what exactly does Blue River bring to the John Deere table? A company that specializes in integrated computer learning and vision that will help farmers reduce their use of pesticides and herbicides by spraying only portions of their fields that are affected rather than the entire plot. It’s capable of identifying individual plants and can determine who to best proceed based on what it sees- pull or spray the weeds while leaving the crops alone.


With Deere purchasing of Blue River seems to be akin to the company’s purchase of NAVComm Technology back in 1999, which gave them GPS technology, helping them better map farmers’ fields, ultimately reducing the amount of time to plant, tend and harvest crops in a more efficient manner. Most likely, Deere is looking to capitalize on smart/automated farming, which we’ll need if we’re going to feed 10-billion people by 2050.


Blue River has already successfully tested their AI platform with their LettuceBot- a robotic platform that rolls through fields photographing 5,000 plants per-minute, using the software side to identify ‘friend (cabbage) or foe (weeds).' It will be interesting to see what John Deere will be capable of in the next five or even ten years as Blue River continues to advance their machine learning efforts beyond what’s available today.


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