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MOLINE, Ill — Deere & Co. plans to start working more closely with startup tech companies.

Officials of Moline-based Deere announced Tuesday the company is launching a Startup Collaborator program in its Intelligent Solutions Group. The program aims to enhance the company’s interaction with startup companies whose technology could add value for Deere customers, according to a news release.

“Our focus for the Startup Collaborator is specifically on startups that want to work with John Deere in real-world customer environments to determine the technology readiness of their innovations,” said John Stone, senior vice president of Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group, in the release.

Stone said the program allows companies to test their technologies with customers and dealers without needing a formal business relationship. Startups also gain mentoring and an affiliation with the company, he said.

“Innovation has been at the heart of John Deere for more than 180 years,” Stone said. “The Startup Collaborator welcomes innovative companies into a program that could help us drive improved results for our customers.”

Three startups already are part of the program. Bear Flag Robotics is a California company developing autonomous technology for farm tractors to reduce expenses and increase worker safety.

Hello Tractor, a Nigerian startup, has developed an application to manage tractor fleets for smallholder farmers.

And Israeli company Taranis developed an automated field scouting service based on sub-millimeter aerial imagery for problem detection and analysis in agriculture.

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