Cooperative Ventures Announces First Investment in Ag Startup
Investment in Sabanto designed to help drive turn-key autonomy solutions for farmers and ag retailers while improving sustainability
ST. PAUL, MINN. and BLOOMINGTON, ILL. (AgPR) Nov. 3, 2022 - 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 working to allow farmers and ag retailers to convert any make and model into an autonomous tractor through an equipment retrofit kit.
"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.
"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," added 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."
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.
About Cooperative Ventures:
Cooperative Ventures is a venture capital fund founded in late 2021 as a joint venture between CHS and GROWMARK, two of the largest farmer-owned agricultural supply cooperatives in North America. 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 our 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 with management assistance from Touchdown Ventures. More information is available at cooperativeventuresllc.com.
GROWMARK is an agricultural cooperative serving almost 400,000 customers across North America, providing agronomy, energy, facility engineering and construction, and logistics products and services, as well as grain marketing and risk management services. Headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois, GROWMARK owns the FS trademark, which is used by its member cooperatives. More information is available at growmark.com.
CHS Inc. (chsinc.com) is a leading global agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the United States. Diversified in energy, agronomy, grains and foods, CHS is committed to creating connections to empower agriculture, helping its farmer-owners, customers and other stakeholders grow their businesses through its domestic and global operations. CHS supplies energy, crop nutrients, seed, crop protection products, grain marketing services, production and agricultural services, animal nutrition products, foods and food ingredients, and risk management services. The company operates petroleum refineries and pipelines and manufactures, markets and distributes Cenex® brand refined fuels, lubricants, propane and renewable energy products.
Headquartered in Chicago, Sabanto's mission is to accelerate autonomy in agricultural machinery to solve two primary problems: (i) the increasingly acute scarcity of labor in rural areas and (ii) ever-increasing capital expenses for modern ag machinery. Sabanto's core competency revolves around low-cost retrofits of existing agriculture machinery regardless of make or model, along with the development of necessary supporting software to maximize the utility of autonomous technology, thereby increasing producer ROI. Learn more at sabantoag.com.