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John Deere acquires Bear Flag Robotics for $250 million

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Bear Flag Robotics raised $7.9 million in seed funding in January 2021. This funding quickly turned into chump change. The California-based developer of autonomous driving technology for tractors is being acquired by John Deere for $250 million. John Deere said in a statement that the deal will accelerate the development of agricultural automation.

Bear Flag Robotics, founded in 2017, retrofits its autonomy stack to existing tractors. It uses cameras, LiDAR and radar technology for redundant, 360-degree situational awareness on the farm. The tractors can be purchased or rented under a Robotics as a Service (RaaS) agreement, which charges per acre.

Deere sees autonomy as an important step forward in helping farmers use their resources strategically to feed the world and create more sustainable and profitable farms, said Jahmy Hindman, chief technology officer at John Deere. Bear Flag’s team of talented agricultural professionals, engineers and technologists have a proven ability to bring advanced technology solutions to market. Combining that expertise and experience with Deere’s expertise in autonomy and our world-class dealer channel will accelerate the delivery of solutions to farmers to solve the huge challenge of feeding a growing world.

The Bear Flag Robotics team will remain in Silicon Valley, working closely with John Deere. While Bear Flag’s technology allows the tractors to operate autonomously, human supervisors use software to monitor and control the fleet from a remote mission control room or personal device. The software plans optimum field patterns based on the grower’s work equipment and provides predictive and post-run analysis.

Deere and Bear Flag are highly complementary from both a technology and task perspective, said Dan Leibfried, John Deere director of automation and autonomy. We look forward to working even more closely together with the ultimate goal of helping farmers achieve the best possible results through advanced technologies like autonomy.

John Deere first began working with Bear Flag in 2019 as part of the Startup Collaborator program, an initiative focused on increasing collaboration with startup companies whose technology can add value to John Deere customers. Since then, Bear Flag has successfully deployed its autonomous solution on a limited number of farms across the United States.

One of the biggest challenges farmers face today is the availability of skilled labor to perform time-sensitive operations that affect farm results. Autonomy offers a safe and productive alternative to solve this challenge,” said Igino Cafiero, co-founder and CEO of Bear Flag Robotics. Bear Flag’s mission to use machine automation to increase global food production and reduce the cost of growing food is aligned with Deere’s mission, and we are excited to join the Deere team to bring autonomy to more farms.

This is John Deere’s second agricultural robotics acquisition in the past four years. It acquired Blue River Technology in 2017 for $305 million. The acquisition of Bear Flag further expands Deere’s presence in the Bay Area, where Blue River and John Deere Labs are both located.

In other recent agricultural robotics news, Abundant Robotics, a Hayward, California-based startup founded in 2016, closed in June. According to a memo on Abundant’s liquidation obtained by The Robot Report, the company was unable to develop the market traction needed to sustain the business during the pandemic.