The Mini GUSS was on display at the World Ag Expo in Tulare in February. Photo by Edward Smith

published on May 3, 2022 - 1:17 PM
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What began as a Kingsburg farm’s automated solution to its own staffing shortages has expanded into a partnership with John Deere.

Illinois-based Deere & Co. announced last month the start of a joint venture with the creators of GUSS, short for Global Unmanned Spray System, a semi-autonomous farm vehicle used for spraying and other tasks. The venture will give the Fresno County company access to more markets, dealers and service providers.

“As demand for high-value crops grows, we see significant opportunities to help growers be more productive while addressing the challenges of increasing labor costs and finding skilled labor to operate equipment,” said Chris Davison, director, small tractor & HVC production systems at John Deere. “The GUSS team has a deep understanding of the high-value crop production system, as well as strong relationships with customers and a proven track record of deploying innovative technology.”

At 5 feet 4 inches tall and 6 feet wide, the mini GUSS produced in Kingsburg has a smaller profile than its predecessor, first featured at the World Ag Expo in 2017.

 

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but for the Kingsburg company, the partnership will help them grow at a faster rate than they could on their own, said Gary Thompson, chief operating officer for Guss Automation.

“This is a very exciting deal for us,” Thompson said.

The owners of GUSS Automation first created the vehicle to spray their own fields when they were struggling to find drivers. Other growers took notice and began asking if they could build them a machine, Thompson said.

Multiple sprayers can be operated by a single user, using fewer resources and filling gaps for growers struggling to find labor.

GUSS Automation was founded in 2018 and demand has been strong ever since.

They roll out roughly a vehicle a week and “have a healthy backlog,” Thompson said.

The deal will help them double that output to two a week, he said, with access to Deere’s resources includes service trucks, mechanics and support for the vehicles.

Under the deal, production stays in Kingsburg and the GUSS Automation brand and trademark will remain the same.

Owners of GUSS unveiled their newest asset at the World Ag Expo this year — the Mini GUSS — for which they were named one the top 10 new products. Full-sized GUSS is fitted for orchards, but the Mini GUSS is made for vineyards.

They currently employ about 35 people full-time and Thompson said they plan to start bringing on more people. They have the physical space to be able to boost production, but Thompson said they would eventually start looking to expand.

Even with supply chain disruptions, Thompson said they are on pace to hit their accelerated production goals.

And when they’re ready to expand their reach, that means access to Deere’s dealer market, Thompson said.

“It gives us a big upper hand in being able to turn that switch on and get our machines out there,” Thompson said.


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