Cooperative Ventures, a venture capital fund formed by North America’s leading agricultural cooperatives, today announced its first investment in Sabanto, a hardware and software company on the forefront of developing autonomous capabilities in tractors. Sabanto, founded in 2018, is deploying fully-autonomous machinery performing row crop field operations throughout the U.S.
“We’re very enthusiastic about the strategic benefits presented by the Sabanto investment,” said GROWMARK Director of Innovation Heather Thompson. “The labor shortage in ag retail is a very real problem. Autonomy presents an exciting solution but adopting autonomous equipment creates a new set of challenges for traditional operations. By partnering with Sabanto, GROWMARK and our FS cooperatives have the advanced opportunity to test and learn the impacts of this cutting-edge technology.”
Sabanto is currently focused on retrofitting 60 to 200-horsepower tractors to operate autonomously. Already, Sabanto has proven its ability to automate a variety of row crop field operations, including planting, tillage, spraying, and mowing over thousands of acres throughout the Midwest.
Currently, Sabanto is compatible with Kubota MT-091 and MG-111, Fendt 7xx Vario Gen6, and 3-point hitch and pull-type implements. The upgrades allow users to continue to put existing equipment to work, deploy multiple tractors in a field, and run all day or night.
“While many autonomous equipment startups are focused on specialty crops, we believe Sabanto’s focus on row crops presents a tremendous opportunity for farmers and our member-owners,” said CHS Director of Innovation and Sustainability Ben Van Straten. “This truly is an evolution of agriculture with the potential to lower equipment and labor costs for farmers and ag retailers by using smaller tractors that are more fuel efficient while further improving sustainability through less soil compaction.”
“Cooperative Ventures’ investment is a testament to the importance of autonomy in the future of row crop agriculture. Given the vast network of customers and acres across GROWMARK and CHS, the path to autonomous field operations will certainly be accelerated,” remarked Craig Rupp, the CEO of Sabanto.
This first investment by Cooperative Ventures is aligned with the capital fund’s core investment areas, or “Fields of Play,” to maximize the impact of each investment: crop production, supply chain, farm business enablement, and sustainability.