Autonomous Ag: Raven Buys Smart Ag
By Chad Elmore04 November 2019
Raven Industries Inc. has acquired Smart Ag Inc., a technology company that develops autonomous farming solutions. This acquisition is part of Raven Autonomy, the company’s strategic growth platform to become an industry leader in autonomous agriculture solutions.
Complementing the company’s Applied Technology division, a technology provider in the precision agriculture industry, this acquisition is expected to be integrated into the division’s business and technology portfolio with the intent to create autonomous solutions for the ag market.
“The acquisition of Smart Ag is part of a bold, company-wide strategy for Raven,” said Dan Rykhus, Raven Industries President and CEO, Sioux Falls, S.D. “It is a key investment in Raven Autonomy, one of our two strategic growth platforms. Autonomy in agriculture is the future of farming, and this acquisition, coupled with our existing precision agriculture solutions, solidifies our position as a technology leader within this market.”
As part of Raven Autonomy, the company said it plans to deliver autonomous solutions for agriculture that will enable its OEM partners and ag retailers to be successful.
Along with the company’s recent agreement to acquire majority ownership in Dot Technology Corp., the acquisition of Smart Ag brings perception and path planning capabilities to the Company’s leading technologies in precision ag operations.
Smart Ag, headquartered in Ames, Ia., was founded in 2015 to solve the growing labor crisis in production agriculture. Today it offers aftermarket retrofit kits to automate farm equipment as well as a platform to connect, manage and safely operate autonomous agricultural machinery. Smart Ag’s technology stack is modular for scalability. The company also brings an established dealer network and skilled development team to Raven.
“Raven’s experience in machine and application control is a perfect complement to the autonomous machine control developed by Smart Ag,” said Brian Meyer, division vice president of Raven Applied Technology. “Together, the expertise of both companies will allow for more operations to be performed in-field — with a significant increase in both performance and outputs. By automating existing machine platforms and implements, driverless machines have great potential to complement the work of manned machine operations in the field.”
Raven has also entered into an agreement to acquire a majority ownership of the designer and manufacturer of Dot, a U-shaped diesel-powered platform that can autonomously handle a large variety of agriculture implements. The machine uses a Cummins QSB4.5 diesel engine rated 173 hp.
The two companies began working together in May 2018, when the company announced the Dot platform would be outfitted with Raven technology, including steering, guidance and propulsion.
“Over the last year and a half of collaborating with Dot, Raven has come to understand the value and uniqueness of the Dot platform,” said Rykhus. “We are furthering our investment in and ownership of this unique, disruptive technology. By investing in Dot’s growth, we believe we have the ability to lead in the next revolution of production agriculture.”
Through the majority ownership, Raven said it will leverage the strengths of each entity to drive commercialization and adoption efforts of autonomy in agriculture. For its part, Raven said it is a market leader in steering, guidance and machine control technology, while Dot brings field path planning, user control experience, machine safety and remote communication software to the relationship. Together, Raven said the companies will accelerate the development of precision agriculture technology from semi-autonomous to fully-autonomous solutions.
“As a company, we launched the Dot platform to change farming. Raven has been a critical partner in helping to get Dot to where we are today,” said Norbert Beaujot, owner and founder of Dot Technology Corp. and SeedMaster Manufacturing Ltd in Saskatchewan, Canada. “Our combined technologies will undoubtedly help accelerate speed to market and adoption of machine automation.”
The investment in Dot will also align under Raven’s Applied Technology division.