Alphabet's 'Project Mineral' Winds Down, Licenses Tech To Driscoll's

Alphabet's moonshot innovation lab X licensed technology from its agriculture startup Project Mineral to Driscoll's, so the family-owned fresh berry company based in California could continue working with the technology.

The two companies came to an agreement after Alphabet decided to shutter its operation, but Driscoll’s wanted to continue using the technology it began working with several years ago.

Mineral uses data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to share insights on how to sustainably grow more food on a global scale for farming. Its team had built hardware, software and technology based on Google’s sensors, robotics, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) — what seems like similar technology and data collecting techniques used to run its more than $300 billion advertising business.



Mineral’s unmanned rover, similar to Google’s Waymo self-driving cars, rolls through the farm fields gathering high-quality images of individual plants.

The company says that by combining the imagery gathered by the rover with other data such as satellite images, weather data and soil information, the team could create a complete picture of what happens in the fields.

Machine learning identifies patterns for how plants grow and interact with the environment, according to a post on the company’s website.

The company has clearly shown how its ML, AI, camera and self-driving car technologies can cross advertising boundaries, despite not always being profitable for its multibillion-dollar core business.

For those who have used a Google Pixel camera, one needs only to ask how similar Mineral’s camera technology is to the high-quality, crystal-clear lens and tech used in the smartphone.  

More deals with other companies are in the works, including those Mineral has partnered with through the years, Bloomberg reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.

Last year, Alphabet graduated Mineral from the lab, turning it into an independent subsidiary. However, it struggled to find a business model in an industry with fierce competition and slim profit margins, Bloomberg said.

"Driscoll’s found the opportunity to potentially embed and integrate ML and AI technology across its enterprise to collect high-quality plant data, with greater accuracy, to unlock new capabilities and insights for breeders, and to have meaningful impact for growers," according to the company's website.

When it became clear that Alphabet could shut down the business in a reorganization of priorities, the berry producer wanted to find a way to keep using the technology, Scott Komar, Driscoll’s senior vice president of global research and development, told Bloomberg.

The company uses Mineral’s technology to analyze and predict how many berries its crops will yield, which enables it to have a more accurate forecast.

Komar did not share financial terms of the deal, but told Bloomberg he believes the license grants Driscoll’s the right to use the technology forever.

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