Deere to develop self-driving tractor system

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Deere to develop self-driving tractor system

Equipment for sale is seen at a John Deere dealer in Denver.

Deere Co said on Thursday that it would buy agriculture tech startup Bear Flag Robotics for $250 million with the goal of developing over the next year systems Deere can sell to allow farm tractors to operate without a human driver in the cab.

Today, Deere is effectively in sales with real customers, said Dan Leibfried, Deere's Director of Automation and Autonomy, Reuters. Bear Flag has tested automated tractor on farms in California. Deere started working at the startup in 2019 when it was almost finished.

On the next 12 months, Leibfriend said that Deere and Bear Flag plan to develop their automated tractor technology for heavier production in commercial production.

We want to get this here on farms as soon as possible, he said.

Chief Operating Officer Aubrey Donnellan said Bear Flag technology was developed so it can be installed on an existing tractor.

Our job is to retrofit existing machines. In the short term, we want to provide a solution to agriculture growers can use to respond to shortages of skilled labor, Donnellan said.

So far, Donnellan said, Bear Flag has focused its development on automating tractors for tilling fields on California farms that aim to plant two or more crops a year. Self-driving tractors that run 24 hours a day can allow farmers to squeeze in extra plantings, she said.

That's money in their pocket, she said.