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Cooperative Ventures invests in autonomous tractor startup

Sabanto products are designed to drive turn-key autonomy solutions for farmers, ag retailers.

Photo courtesy of Sabanto
Photo courtesy of Sabanto

Cooperative Ventures, a venture capital fund formed by North American agricultural cooperatives GROWMARK and CHS, announces 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," continued Thompson. "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.”

Automating row crop field operations, increasing sustainability

Sabanto 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.”

First investment for Cooperative Ventures

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

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.

Founded in late 2021 as a joint venture between CHS and GROWMARK, the fund focuses on innovative solutions and emerging technologies that positively impact farming. In addition to providing capital, Cooperative Ventures is committed to developing mutually beneficial commercial relationships between startups and its farmer-owned cooperative partners.

CHS and GROWMARK leverage their industry expertise and farmgate network to provide valuable operational support and resources to help Cooperative Ventures’ portfolio companies grow and succeed. Cooperative Ventures is comprised of teams based out of Bloomington, Illinois, and St. Paul, Minnesota.

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