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.
Autonomous driving technology combined with sensor-driven software platforms are transforming farming. When I walked into Deere & Co.'s Intelligent Solutions Group offices in Des Moines, one of the first things I saw was a familiar graphic on the wall - a neat visualization of what it means to make a minimum viable product. That's'lean startup' talk, which isn't unusual in most of the startups and tech shops I visit. But this was John Deere, the 180-year-old maker of huge tractors and huge combines and huge harvesters – maximum viable products. I'd driven over from Chicago to learn more about "precision agriculture," which is old-fashioned, work-the-land farming, augmented with apps and other gadgets that do everything from monitor soil moisture to drive tractors.