Topcon Scoops Up Digi-Star To Grow ‘Precision Agriculture’ Business

Japan’s Topcon scooped up Wisconsin agriculture technology company Digi-Star today in a move that underscores the growing excitement over connected devices in seemingly every industry, including farming.

Topcon Positioning Group, a division of Tokyo-based Topcon Corp., acquired Digi-Star for an undisclosed price from the private equity arm of Baird Capital.

Digi-Star’s products and services will be joined with Topcon’s precision agriculture business that makes GPS-enabled guidance systems and electronic controls for farm equipment, among other products. Fort Atkinson, WI-based Digi-Star sells software-enabled scales, sensors, and other equipment that helps farmers better manage their operations, such as measuring crop yields and tracking livestock feed inventory. Digi-Star also has customers in the industrial market.

For several years, Topcon and Digi-Star worked as partners on development projects, and the two have “complementary technologies and distribution channels,” Topcon Positioning Group president and CEO Ray O’Connor said in a news release.

“At a time when many companies are decreasing their investment in agricultural markets, we are increasingly optimistic about their growth based upon our strong commitment to developing management systems and solutions that bring the power of the Internet of Things to every farm,” O’Connor said in the release.

Digi-Star traces its roots back to 1981, when it was a division of Garden City, KS-based Butler Manufacturing. The business later moved to Wisconsin and was spun off into its own company.

Digi-Star opened a distribution center and marketing office in the Netherlands in 1999, according to its website. Baird Capital, the investment arm of Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird & Co., bought Digi-Star in 2011. The following year, Digi-Star expanded to the U.K. when it bought RDS Technology, which sold similar technology. That deal also gave Digi-Star engineering, development, and manufacturing facilities in Europe, Digi-Star said.

With the addition of Digi-Star’s more than 220 employees in Wisconsin and Europe, Topcon’s precision agriculture business now counts about 600 employees. Livermore, CA-based Topcon Positioning Group has more than 2,000 employees worldwide.

Digi-Star operations will remain based in Fort Atkinson, the companies said.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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