Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"Deere suit sheds light on race for $240 billion farm tech market" (DE; AGCO)

Bloom via Chi Trib, June 26
An obscure-sounding legal battle between two of the biggest farm-machinery makers is highlighting a race to automate farm work.

Deere & Co., the world's biggest tractor maker, is suing rival AGCO Corp. over gadgets like seed meters and hoppers that attach to planting machines. Such devices are integral to a projected $240 billion market for so-called precision agriculture, which harnesses big data to automate operations and boost productivity.

Companies are "moving fast" with precision technology, transforming the industry, said Karen Ubelhart, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. "This is a big deal, and they're all spending a lot of money on it."

In its patent-infringement complaints, filed June 1 in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, Deere said the combination of AGCO unit Precision Planting's vSet seed meters and SpeedTube seed-delivery system infringes 12 patents related to Deere's ExactEmerge, which allows farmers more accurate seed placement and spacing while planting at higher speeds. Deere is seeking court orders blocking further infringement and to collect cash compensation.

AGCO, the No. 3 tractor-maker, bought the company that makes these components, Precision Planting, from Monsanto Co. last year -- a few months after Deere's $190 million bid for the business was blocked by the Department of Justice.

AGCO said in a statement that Deere's claims "are believed to be without merit and will be vigorously disputed."

"Deere is now suing AGCO over the Precision Planting technology that AGCO acquired that, in the first place, John Deere wanted to acquire," said Dennis Buckmaster, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. "There must be sufficient difference in the technology, or else Deere wouldn't have wanted to acquire it in the first place."...
...New technologies under the category of precision farming -- which also include things like autonomous tractors, plant sensors, drones and data-management software -- will probably generate $240 billion in revenue by 2050 and help lift crop yields by 70 percent, according to a 2016 report from Goldman Sachs Group Inc....