John Deere redoubles his efforts on Silicon Valley and robots


There are many Talk about bringing Silicon Valley-style innovation to the heart of the United States. But when the heartland needs technology, it will still come to Silicon Valley.

Thursday, John Deere Announced that it would acquire Bear flag robot, A Silicon Valley startup that produces fully automatic tractors for farms, valued at $250 million.

Bear Flag retrofits conventional tractors with sensors, control systems, computers and communication systems required for automatic operation. The company’s technology allows a lone farmer to remotely supervise a fleet of robotic tractors that automatically cultivate fields.

“John Deere has left his mark on this completely autonomous technology, which means it’s really here,” said George’s Office, A robotics expert at Carnegie Mellon University, specializing in the application of robots in agriculture. He added that automatic tractors are especially important because these machines are used in many different agricultural fields.

Some tractors have been able to autonomously follow GPS-guided paths, but Bear Flag’s technology can completely remove a person from the tractor cab. The company draws on innovations developed and commercialized through the self-driving car industry. Not only does it use lidar and computer vision for navigation, it can also analyze the soil behind the tractor.

Aubrey Donnellan, co-founder and COO of Bear Flag Robotics, said: “We use AI to analyze sensor input to predict failures and see things that humans can’t see.”

The acquisition was founded in 1837 by John Deere (John Deere) who saw automation, robot technology, and artificial intelligence As an important part of future agriculture.Equipment manufacturers paid $305 million Acquired Blue River TechnologyIn September 2017, another Silicon Valley company that makes intelligent weeding robots.

“For technicians interested in autonomous vehicle development and robotics, this is a very fast-growing field,” said Daniel Leibfried, John Deere’s Director of Autonomous Driving and Intelligent Solutions.

Machines have been used in agriculture for a long time, but as advances in artificial intelligence and robotics allow processes to be automated in new ways, the industry is now experiencing a surge in new applications of automation. Many experts predict that more automation will be needed to meet the growing demand for food and labor shortages, and to reduce the environmental damage that more intensive agriculture may bring.

In some farms, drones can now analyze crops autonomously to estimate yields or detect signs of disease.A sort of Growing catalog of robots More complex farming can be performed in the field, including machines that can harvest crops, remove weeds, and milk livestock.Start-up companies such as tractor and Bowie Greenhouses are being developed to optimize food production using sensors, robots and artificial intelligence.

Some simple tasks still cannot be done by robots. For example, picking grapes or tomatoes may be a simple (and low-paid) job for humans, but it is difficult for robots to master.

“Eventually there will be robots doing these things,” Kanter said. “And they will need to be towed or integrated into an automatic tractor made by Bear Flag.”

The revenue of agricultural robots is expected to grow by 19% annually between 2018 and 2026, reaching USD 16.6 billion. Driven by research, An analysis company.

The increase in agricultural automation may affect employment.According to statistics, agriculture still accounts for about 2.6 million jobs in the United States Data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture October 2020.

but Ali MojimiThe assistant professor of “Precision Agriculture”, a professor at the University of California, Davis, said that due to the complexity and periodicity of agriculture, the adoption of robots and artificial intelligence in agriculture may be slower than other industries. But he believes that automation is inevitable, not only because it can increase productivity, but also because it can help limit environmental damage, such as automatically detecting excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer.

“The latest advances in artificial intelligence will change the rules of the game,” said Moghimi in the agricultural sector. “This is the way we must go.”

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