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New Holland, Bluewhite announce autonomy collaboration

Effective immediately, Bluewhite tech can be installed at New Holland dealerships.

Andy Castillo

July 9, 2024

3 Min Read
New Holland equipment with Bluewhite tech
PARTNERING FOR AUTONOMY: New Holland is partnering with ag tech company Bluewhite to upgrade its autonomous offerings.Bluewhite

To automate its tractors for orchard, vineyard and other specialty crop operations, New Holland has teamed up with Israeli robotics company Bluewhite.

The strategic partnership is structured around a three-phase, multiyear initiative that will embed Bluewhite tech across New Holland’s portfolio. Effective immediately, select New Holland dealers in the western U.S. will begin selling, distributing and servicing Bluewhite’s aftermarket kits for existing New Holland tractors.

“Bluewhite has proven to be the leader in terms of implementing autonomy in the specialty crops space, a market in great demand for this type of innovation,” said Carlo Lambro, brand president at New Holland. “The integration of Bluewhite into our technology stack allows our customers to access much-needed autonomous technology in an attainable aftermarket solution. The partnership with Bluewhite complements our mission to continue to better serve our customers, elevate their capabilities and bring more autonomy to their operations.”

Mike Wilson - Alon Ascher, Bluewhite’s CBO

Bluewhite, founded in 2017, opened offices in Fresno, Calif., about four years ago and built a business around retrofitting tractors and “converting them to robots,” said Alon Ascher, Bluewhite’s chief business officer at this year’s World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit. The retrofitted machines can do many tasks related to specialty crops.

“It’s not about driving at a specific speed; it’s about executing a task,” Ascher said. “If the tractor has more electronic controls, we use them. It’s mainly mechanical.”

How retrofits work

Ben Alfi, Bluewhite’s CEO, explained how the retrofit kits work at this year’s Celebration of Modern Agriculture on the National Mall farm machinery event in Washington, D.C.

“Our technology, the hardware and the software, can transform your existing tractor to autonomous, with any type of crop,” Alfi said. “We do not depend on GPS, or any one sensor.”

Bluewhite’s bolt-on autonomy kits rely mostly on mechanical parts to move vehicle controls. A control computer communicates with lidar, radar sensors and cameras to safely maneuver around obstacles.

“All of that is compiled with sensor fusion based on AI and classic algorithms, and deployed,” Alfi said. “One person, with his iPad or telephone, can control different types of tractors in the field doing different tasks at the same time.”

Courtesy of Bluewhite - Multiple tractors doing different tasks can be controlled by a single operator from a smart device

Paul Welbig, precision product marketing director for New Holland Agriculture for North America, says the collaboration with Bluewhite aims to “address the financial aspect of an operation by freeing up an operator to tackle other tasks,” and alleviate “some of the biggest pain points growers contend with every day that slow them down during the most critical times in the growing season.” It builds on CNH Industrial's tech acquisitions of Raven, Augmenta and Hemisphere.

According to a media statement, orders can be placed starting this summer. New Holland will expand its dealer network to ensure customer access. The two companies are also exploring future possibilities for factory-installed solutions.

“We’re incredibly excited about collaborating with CNH and New Holland to accelerate the adoption of autonomous technologies in the field that not only improve productivity and profitability for growers, but also promote safe and sustainable methods of producing food,” Alfi said in a statement. “Our long-term partnership with CNH and New Holland combining leading autonomous technology with the best tractors and harvesters in the orchards and vineyards sector is a milestone in achieving our mission of making cutting-edge innovation accessible to the agriculture sector.”

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Autonomous

About the Author(s)

Andy Castillo

Andy Castillo started his career in journalism about a decade ago as a television news cameraperson and producer before transitioning to a regional newspaper covering western Massachusetts, where he wrote about local farming.

Between military deployments with the Air Force and the news, he earned an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Bay Path University, building on the English degree he earned from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He's a multifaceted journalist with a diverse skill set, having previously worked as an EMT and firefighter, a nightclub photographer, caricaturist, features editor at the Greenfield Recorder and a writer for GoNomad Travel. 

Castillo splits his time between the open road and western Massachusetts with his wife, Brianna, a travel nurse who specializes in pediatric oncology, and their rescue pup, Rio. When not attending farm shows, Castillo enjoys playing music, snowboarding, writing, cooking and restoring their 1920 craftsman bungalow.

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