Autonomy firm Sabanto gets venture capital money

By Chad Elmore04 November 2022

Investment intended to help drive turn-key autonomy solutions for farmers, ag retailers

Cooperative Ventures, a venture capital fund formed by North American agricultural cooperatives Growmark and CHS, has invested in Sabanto, a hardware and software startup developing autonomous capabilities in tractors.

“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.”

autonomous tractor Sabanto is deploying fully autonomous machinery for row crop field operations throughout the U.S. (Photo: CHS Inc.)

Sabanto, founded in 2018 and based in Chicago, has deployed deploying fully-autonomous machinery performing row crop field operations throughout the United States. It is currently focused on retrofitting 60 to 200 hp 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.

“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.”

The move is the first investment by Cooperative Ventures and is reportedly 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.

Cooperative Ventures is a venture capital fund founded in late 2021 as a joint venture between CHS and Growmark, two farmer-owned agricultural supply cooperatives, which said they will leverage their industry expertise and network to provide operational support and resources to help Cooperative Ventures’ portfolio companies grow and succeed. Cooperative Ventures is comprised of teams based in Bloomington, Ill., and St. Paul, Minn., with management assistance from Touchdown Ventures.

“Cooperative Ventures’ investment is a testament to the importance of autonomy in the future of row crop agriculture,” said Sabanto CEO Craig Rupp. “Given the vast network of customers and acres across Growmark and CHS, the path to autonomous field operations will certainly be accelerated.”

Sabanto’s mission is to accelerate autonomy in agricultural machinery to solve the scarcity of labor in rural areas and ever-increasing capital expenses for modern ag machinery. The company said its core competency is low-cost retrofits of existing agriculture machinery.

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