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Startup Firm Planted 10,000 Acres of Corn Autonomously in 2019
USAgNet - 11/11/2019

Mainstream on-farm autonomous machinery gained a lot of ground in 2019, particularly if you consider a prototype New-Holland natural-gas-fueled driverless tractor got prime billing at the New York Stock Exchange over the Labor Day weekend.

The Big City media object lesson not-withstanding, on-the-ground farm autonomy was on display across the Corn Belt in a big way this past summer, and one of the principals in those demonstrations says mainstream farm equipment autonomy is only a handful of years away.

Craig Rupp and Kyler Laird spent much of the summer on a five-state soybean planting demonstration that included fields in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana using an off-the-shelf leased JCB 4220 tractor they had equipped with their sensors and controllers, and an 18-row, 20-inch Harvest International planter with CleanSweep technology and down force control. Their goal was 10,000 acres of autonomously-planted soybeans on cooperator farms across the area.

Rupp, whose career involves a couple of decades in the wireless industry and a stint at John Deere where he developed the Starfire receiver and the GreenStar display, says he and Laird, his partner in the newly-formed farm-service business Sabanto, were not satisfied with the rate things were moving in public acceptance of on-farm autonomous equipment. That's why they launched their multi-state planting demonstration - to show technology exists to accurately plant a crop without a driver and to jump-start lots of coffee shop conversations.

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