Nothing Runs Like an Autonomous Deere

Igino Cafiero, CEO & Co-Founder, Bear Flag Robotics joined Grayson Brulte on The Road to Autonomy Podcast to discuss autonomous tractors, the technology’s benefits to farmers and the acquisition of Bear Flag by John Deere.

The conversation begins with Igino discussing what it has been like since John Deere acquired Bear Flag Robotics in August 2021 and what the impact has been to date.

One of the most impactful things has been how we have been able to really just accelerate the technology development that Bear Flag has been working on, and have a means to have this actually have the impact in the world that we have always wanted it to have and that has been possible with Deere.

– Igino Cafiero

Together Bear Flag and Deere are complementing each other as they enable and accelerate autonomous tractor operations.

Deere has made a very significant and bold investment in the Autonomous 8R, which was announced at CES earlier this year. It has had a remarkably successful season in the field this year, and one of the ways that Bear Flag is complementing that is by pointing our efforts towards autonomy in orchards.

– Igino Cafiero

By enabling and accelerating autonomy, farmers will benefit as the economics of the farm will no longer be limited by a growing labor shortage.

There is this massive labor shortage that farmers are facing and it is perhaps most acute in these markets that we are focused on in California for high-value crops. There is this misconception in agriculture that there is this infinite line, sort of workers available on the farm. That just couldn’t be further from the truth. So complementary technologies such as autonomy will continue to help farmers and also drive sales for John Deere.

– Igino Cafiero

Autonomous tractors will make farmers more profitable as they are able to fully utilize the land and optimize their operations. When Igino co-founded Bear Flag he focused on recurring revenue on day one because the company had to demonstrate to investors that the technology would work and that they had a product market fit.

We developed this service go-to-market, where growers would pay for the work that was actually done.

– Igino Cafiero

The recurring revenue model validated to investors that the technology worked and that farmers would pay for the autonomous tractor service. In the early days of Bear Flag, when Igino met with farmers to discuss their technology and operations the conversations were based around the cost efficiency of using autonomous tractors as a service. The model allowed farmers to use their best employees in other areas of the farm while the autonomous tractor focused on tillage.

When it came to determine the best way to price the service, Bear Flag ultimately chose a model that would benefit farmers.

Ultimately what was obvious in hindsight is we just charged per acre. We said, you pay us when you are happy with the job.

– Igino Cafiero

Today as part of Deere, Bear Flag is focusing on building highly reliable autonomous software that will help farmers due their job more efficiently. Deere is going to scale autonomous tractors as John May, CEO of Deere stated the following during analyst meetings with J.P. Morgan in September 2022.

Going forward every John Deere tractor will be autonomous-ready with the necessary computing power.

– John May, CEO of Deere & Company (John Deere)

Bear Flag will play a vital role in Deere’s autonomy strategy as the technology scales and farmers implement autonomous tractors on farms around the world.

Wrapping up the conversation, Igino discusses what he is looking to forward to accomplishing at Deere over the next decade.

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Recorded on Friday November 11, 2022