Acquisitions of and investments in precision agriculture startups accelerate the capabilities and time to market of the major line manufacturers’ autonomous offerings.
Seth Crawford, AGCO’s senior vice president and general manager of precision ag and digital, says internal strategic discussions identified that AGCO had the foundation to advance its artificial intelligence and autonomy capabilities on its own, but it would take too long to go it alone.
“We decided on a blended approach between enhancing our internal capabilities and selectively identifying companies that could supplement what we had,” Crawford says. “With our retrofit first approach, we didn’t feel that we needed to go get brands — we needed to go get the capabilities.”
AGCO’s approach contrasts CNH Industrial’s move to acquire the well-known Raven Industries in November 2021. Parag Garg, chief digital officer of precision technology at CNH Industrial, says the acquisition positions CNH to “leapfrog” the competition.
“They bridge our autonomous gap and add tremendous automation capacities as a leader in sprayer applications and their expanded suite of guidance technology,” Garg says.
Jorge Heraud, Deere’s vice president of automation and autonomy, pointed out the immediate impact of its most recent acquisition of artificial intelligence visioning startup Light while explaining the hardware and software behind See & Spray at a Deere technology event in June.
“This software just got a lot better with our 27 new employees who came from Light. They’re helping us make perception better,” Heraud said during his presentation.
Autonomy supports 1 of 3 pillars that make up Kubota’s 10-year plan. Kubota’s 2021 report says the company will develop automated and unmanned agricultural machinery and provide automated management systems that use AI for the production of crops like rice, wheat and fruit.
Yuichi Kitao, president and representative director of Kubota Corp., writes in the report that those solutions will contribute to the entire food value chain as part of an open platform that will be shared among industries.
“The foundation for these new solutions will be the existing businesses that we are currently developing,” Kitao writes. “We will continue to search for new technologies and businesses by uniting and aligning these vectors and create new value by integrating existing businesses.”
Ag Equipment Intelligence compiled a list of all the publicly announced acquisitions and investments made by major line manufacturers in 2021. Since the list was first published in April, the majors have gone on to announce 3 more acquisitions and investments in the precision space. The companies are listed in the infographic accompanying this article.
This list only reflects investments made by major lines that are relevant to their ag equipment business and investments related to other markets (i.e. construction) have not been included.
2022: Appareo Systems, software engineering and hardware development, purchase price unknown.
2022: JCA Industries, autonomous agricultural machinery software developer, purchase price unknown.
2021: Faromatics, precision livestock robotics, purchase price unknown.
2021: Greeneye Technology, precision spraying technology, 2.9% equity investment.
2021: Apex.AI, safety-certified software for autonomous applications, 2.53% equity investment.
2021: NX9, software suite with ISOBUS core technology focus, purchase price unknown.
2021: Raven Industries, precision technology, purchased for $58 per share.
2021: Augmenta, real-time data processing for autonomous farm applications, minority stake investment.
2021: Monarch Tractor, electric autonomous tractors, minority stake investment.
2022: Light, depth perception and visioning technology using artificial intelligence, purchase price unknown.
2021: AgriSync, a dealer customer service platform, purchase price unknown.
2021: Bear Flag Robotics, autonomous driving technology, purchased for $250 million.
2021: AgJunction, autonomous machine control applications, purchase price unknown.
2022: FarmX, irrigation automation and management platform, additional investment following initial April 2020 investment.
2021: Advanced Farm Technologies, automated strawberry harvesting, additional investment following initial August 2019 investment.
2021: Bloomfield Robotics, fruit and tree crop monitoring using artificial intelligence.
2021: Routrek Networks, automated irrigation and fertilization systems for indoor farming.
2021: Tevel, wired drone harvesting service.