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Deere announces joint venture with GUSS Automation

Kingsburg, Calif.-based spray services company began using autonomous orchard sprayer in late 2017.

Tim Hearden, Western Farm Press

April 22, 2022

3 Min Read
A GUSS sprayer works its way through a California orchard.GUSS

Deere & Co. announced on April 21 it has entered a joint venture with GUSS Automation, a California-based startup whose automated orchard sprayer has been in use since late 2017.

Through the agreement, John Deere will help GUSS collaborate with its sales channel and the startup wiill continue its innovation and product development efforts, retaining its 35 full-time employees and its current location, according to Deere.

GUSS machines are already sold primarily through Deere dealerships, and the iconic farm equipment company's "investment" in the joint venture will enhance the relationship, said Darius Lane, Deere's Small Ag & Turf public relations manager. 

"A joint venture with GUSS is one of many initiatives Deere is involved with," Lane told Farm Progress in an email. "Deere believes technology and automation enables solutions to problems that high-value crop growers have -- helping them increase efficiency, precision and profitability, and better feed a growing world."

Related: New autonomous orchard sprayer borne of necessity

Representatives from GUSS did not immediately reply to an email sent late Thursday (April 21) seeking comment.

GUSS – which stands for Global Unmanned Spray System – was created by the Kingsburg, Calif.-based Crinklaw Farm Services, which had been providing agricultural spray services to West Coast growers for more than 30 years before the machine was ready for work in 2017.

Labor woes prompted project

“We have the largest ground spray rig business in California for trees and vineyards,” Gary Thompson, a partner in the business, told Farm Progress in 2021. “This whole GUSS project came about because of our own labor challenges. We were unable to find enough tractor drivers.”

Now dozens of machines are in customers' hands, spraying mainly almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans and citrus in California and Arizona, along with some citrus in Florida and almonds in Australia, he said. CFS also still contracts with growers to spray up to 5,000 acres a day during peak season, according to its website.

Multiple GUSS sprayers can be remotely supervised by a single operator, allowing growers to spray orchards and vineyards more quickly and consistently, Deere notes in a release. The machines also control application rates and sprayer speeds across entire fields and in variable terrain, the company explains.

Related: Deere goes high-tech for high-value crops

The announcement comes as Deere has been using partnerships and acquisitions to bolster its offerings to producers of high-value crops, which include vineyards and orchard crops as well as myriad field crops such as carrots, melons, onions, pumpkins, lettuce, peanuts and pine trees.

"To an outsider, when they think of John Deere, they might think of a corn field or a wheat field," Greg Christensen, a go-to-market manager for John Deere, told Farm Progress last fall. "But we have a ton of products built specifically for high-value crops -- in California, Oregon, Washington, or in the Northeast, or citrus in Florida. They're built for crops that are very different than what the steel plow was invented for."

The company says GUSS employees, customers, and business partners should notice little change in daily operations resulting from the joint venture.

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