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John Deere bought an AI company to optimize crop spraying

Machine learning could lead to smarter farming.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 6, 2017
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Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Want to know how pervasive AI is becoming in seemingly all facets of daily life? Just ask Deere & Company. The John Deere brand owner just acquired Blue River Technology, which uses machine learning and computer vision to target herbicide spraying at just the weed-infested portions of a farm field. The technology can minimize both waste and the amount of input needed while spraying, saving farmers headaches and money in the process.

The deal involves a $305 million investment and should wrap up later in September. Blue River's team is staying in its Sunnyvale, California home. That's to maintain the "same entrepreneurial spirit" that led to its growth, Deere says.

While Deere hasn't outlined its exact plans, the AI-assisted spraying is just part of a larger strategy. Machine learning is an "important capability for Deere's future," the company explains -- this is about making the technology an integral part of its equipment. It knows farming will be increasingly automated, and this buyout could help it stay ahead of the curve.

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