John Deere’s Bear Flag Robotics Acquisition Will Accelerate Autonomous Vehicle Development in Agriculture

It looks as if the race to develop autonomous vehicles for agriculture is about to heat up some. On August 5, Deere & Co. signed a definitive agreement to acquire Bear Flag Robotics for $250 million. Founded in 2017, Bear Flag develops autonomous driving technology compatible with existing machines. According to Jahmy Hindman, Chief Technology Officer for John Deere, the deal accelerates the development and delivery of automation and autonomy on-the-farm and supports the company’s long-term strategy to create smarter machines with advanced technology to support individual customer needs.


“Deere views autonomy as an important step forward in enabling farmers to leverage their resources strategically to feed the world and create more sustainable and profitable operations,” said Hindman. “Bear Flag’s team of talented agriculture professionals, engineers and technologists have a proven ability to deliver advanced technology solutions to market. Joining that expertise and experience with Deere’s expertise in autonomy, along with our world-class dealer channel, will accelerate the delivery of solutions to farmers that address the immense challenge of feeding a growing world.”

Deere first started working with Bear Flag in 2019 as part of the company’s Start-up Collaborator program, an initiative focused on enhancing work with start-up companies whose technology could add value for Deere customers. Since then, Bear Flag has successfully deployed its autonomous solution on a limited number of farms in the U.S. The Bear Flag team will remain in Silicon Valley, where they will work closely with Deere to accelerate innovation and autonomy for customers across the world.

According to Dan Leibfried, Director – Automation & Autonomy at John Deere, one of the primary reasons the company decided to make this acquisition was to further the use of autonomous vehicles as a way to address one of agriculture’s biggest ongoing issues, finding/retaining labor.

“The challenge of labor in agriculture is real and impactful,” said Leibfried. “By acquiring Bear Flag and their autonomous technology, we will help solve these challenges for our customers.”

Igino Cafiero, Co-founder and CEO of Bear Flag Robotics, echoed this view. “One of the biggest challenges farmers face today is the availability of skilled labor to execute time-sensitive operations that impact farming outcomes,” said Cafiero. “Autonomy offers a safe and productive alternative to address that challenge head on. Bear Flag’s mission to increase global food production and reduce the cost of growing food through machine automation is aligned with Deere’s and we’re excited to join the Deere team to bring autonomy to more farms.”

According to Leibfried, John Deere customers could begin seeing Bear Flag technologies on their vehicles by the end of 2021, with the Bear Flag name being maintained. “Autonomous vehicle use will likely be much faster in agriculture than elsewhere in the marketplace,” he added. “Eventually, you can expect to see all kinds of ag vehicles using this technology.”

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