John Deere
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John Deere and GUSS Automation Form Joint Venture

April 25, 2022
The joint venture will enable GUSS to focus on continued advancements of its autonomous sprayer as well as provide the companies opportunity to collaborate on ways to best serve customers in the high-value crop segment.

John Deere has announced the formation of a joint venture with GUSS Automation, a California-based company which has developed semi-autonomous orchard and vineyard sprayers known as GUSS (Global Unmanned Spray System). These machines can be controlled remotely to conduct spraying operations on high-value crops such as almonds, grapes and melons. 

Currently, the joint venture will enable GUSS to further collaborate with John Deere's sales channel. The autonomous sprayers are primarily sold through Deere dealers already, and the joint venture will enable a further expansion of these sales efforts.  

John Deere told Power & Motion via email there are no plans to apply GUSS technology to its products, and GUSS will continue to own and develop its technology. There are also no immediate plans for technology collaboration between the companies. However, John Deere said it is most interested in GUSS for its deep customer understanding of the high-value crop segment and it is Deere's intent to collaborate where it can deliver additional value to customers. 

The company said there are similarities between the two companies, such as their desire to use innovation and technology to help solve customers' problems. "We will look for opportunities to collaborate and best serve customers through our joint efforts," said John Deere.

One of the biggest challenges facing farmers today is labor. Autonomous machines such as GUSS can help overcome labor shortages as a single person can remotely control multiple machines. Automation also helps to ensure more consistent spraying, reducing chemical use which can improve operational costs for farmers as well as reduce impacts to the environment. 

Use of automated systems and equipment can help improve the accuracy and efficiency of operations because they eliminate human error. The software and sensors built into an automated system enable tasks to be more precisely controlled. For GUSS, application rates and sprayer speeds can be more tightly controlled and adjusted as necessary through simple software changes.  

"As demand for high-value crops grows, we see significant opportunities to help growers be more productive while addressing the challenges of increasing labor costs and finding skilled labor to operate equipment," said Chris Davison, director, Small Tractor & HVC Production Systems at John Deere, in the company's press release announcing the joint venture. "The GUSS team has a deep understanding of the high-value crop production system, as well as strong relationships with customers and a proven track record of deploying innovative technology." 

This is just one of many investments John Deere has made into autonomous agriculture equipment. In 2021, the company acquired Bear Flag Robotics, a developer of autonomous tractor technology. And at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2022, John Deere unveiled its Autonomous 8R tractor which can operate unmanned for tillage operations. 

Watch our interview with Noah Schwartz, Lead Perception Engineer at Bear Flag Robotics, about the development of the Autonomous 8R tractor

GUSS Sprayers Use Advanced Technology

The autonomous system used to enable unmanned operation of the GUSS sprayer is comprised of GPS, LiDAR, vehicle sensors and proprietary software. All of these work together to give the machine visibility of its environment and keep it on planned paths through the orchard or vineyard.

GUSS developed several additional technologies, as well, to ensure operation under tree canopies. Even the most advanced GPS technology available today can have difficulty picking up signals when a machine is covered by trees or other objects. And because GUSS is intended for high-value crops which are grown in environments with a lot of tree cover, such as almonds, it was important to develop technology that will allow the sprayer to easily maneuver and "see" within these conditions. 

GUSS' Select Spray technology ensures precise and efficient spraying of crops. It is able to detect the tree or other crop which needs to be sprayed and applies only the necessary amount of material. 

Up to eight machines can be monitored by a single person via a laptop. The operator receives real-time feedback on how the sprayer is operating, including spray rate and speed, so he or she can ensure all is going as planned or make adjustments as necessary.  

About the Author

Sara Jensen | Technical Editor, Power & Motion

Sara Jensen is technical editor of Power & Motion, directing expanded coverage into the modern fluid power space, as well as mechatronic and smart technologies. She has over 15 years of publishing experience. Prior to Power & Motion she spent 11 years with a trade publication for engineers of heavy-duty equipment, the last 3 of which were as the editor and brand lead. Over the course of her time in the B2B industry, Sara has gained an extensive knowledge of various heavy-duty equipment industries — including construction, agriculture, mining and on-road trucks —along with the systems and market trends which impact them such as fluid power and electronic motion control technologies. 

You can follow Sara and Power & Motion via the following social media handles:

X (formerly Twitter): @TechnlgyEditor and @PowerMotionTech

LinkedIn: @SaraJensen and @Power&Motion

Facebook: @PowerMotionTech

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