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EMAILED ON September 13, 2017 BY THE HUSTLE

John Deere’s push into AI

Last week, tractor behemoth John Deere announced a $305m buyout of Blue River Technology, a company that uses machine learning to identify and eradicate weeds.

It may seem odd coming from a business that has a die-hard following of overall-clad, 60-year-old farmers — but ol’ JD is actually a tech pioneer.

They see me rollin’

Founded in 1837, John Deere began as a small tool manufacturer (shovels, pitchforks), before revolutionizing farming with its self-cleaning steel plow.

Long before the rise of Silicon Valley, the company was on the cusp of major technological advancements: they pioneered auto-steering and led the self-driving vehicle revolution, developed one of the best GPS systems in the world, and were an early adopter of the Internet of Things.

This past Spring, they launched John Deere Labs, opened an office in San Francisco’s tech-laden SOMA district, and began investigating how they could integrate AI into their farming equipment.

They’re also taking on population growth

Blue River Technology represents John Deere’s first foray into the space.

Typically, farmers apply mass sprays of herbicides to their crops, but the tech singles out weeds using AI-equipped cameras, cutting down on chemical use by 95% and improving yield.

It is estimated that in the next 3 decades, there will be another 2.4B people on Earth — and in order to provide enough food for everyone, the global food supply needs to grow by 1.7% per year (right now, it’s at 1% in the US).

John Deere believes the solution to the problem lies at the intersection of technology and sustainability — and AI is at the center of the Venn.