American agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere has acquired the developer of autonomous driving technology for tractors Bear Flag Robotics at a fee of $250 million.
In a press statement, John Deere notes that the acquisition is meant to boost the company’s long-term goals of establishing smarter machines with advanced technology to support individual customer needs.
Through the deal, John Deere also seeks to accelerate its development and delivery of automation and autonomy on the farm.
According to the statement, the Bear Flag Robotics team will continue its operation from Silicon Valley. However, the two entities will work closely.
In recent years, John Deere has also continued to expand its services by incorporating cutting-edge technologies like robotics and drones.
“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. Bear Flag’s team of talented agriculture professionals, engineers, and technologists have a proven ability to deliver advanced technology solutions to market,” said Jahmy Hindman, Chief Technology Officer at John Deere.
Bear Flag’s technology enables tractors to run autonomously with human supervisors using software to monitor and command the fleet from a remote mission control room. The software offers optimal field patterns based on growers’ implements and provides predictive and post-run analytics.
Before the acquisition, Deere was already engaging with Bear flag from 2019 under the Startup Collaborator program.
Increasing incorporation of robotics in agriculture
The use of robots in agriculture has been growing in recent months due to the shortage of labor occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic. Notably, Bear Flag has already begun deploying its technology to several sites across the United States.
The Bear Flag Robotics acquisition marks the second deal by John Deere. In 2017, John Deere acquired Blue River Technology 2017 for $305 million.
Furthermore, acquisition activity in the robotics industry has been growing in recent months, with companies moving towards operations automation.
In June, South Korean vehicle manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group acquired a controlling stake of $800 million in the U.S robotics firm Boston Dynamics. The deal involved Hyundai and its affiliates, including Hyundai Motor Co., Hyundai Mobis Co., and Hyundai Glovis Co.