The Van Trump Report

Smaller, Autonomous, Cheaper Equipment on the Way

You can think of Agtonomy as a hybrid autonomy and tele-assist service platform that turns tractors and other equipment into autonomous machines using a robust sensor suite and custom software stack to enable remote modes of operation focused on lowering the cost of repetitive tasks such as mowing, spraying, and precision weeding. 

Just last September the company received $4 million in seed funding from a group of backers that included Grit Ventures, GV and Village Global, and to most everyone’s surprise, Grit and GV came back again this month to invest in the company as part of a $5 million seed extension, led by Toyota Ventures. It’s worth mentioning, the executive team consists of veterans from the AI, EV, cloud service, and agriculture industries, with extensive experience at tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Dell, Uber, and Cruise, as well as lifelong farming experience. 

From what I understand, Co-Founder and CEO Tim Bucher wasn’t expecting to raise again so soon, but when he saw the outlook for 2022, that agtech was going to be the number one hot space for the year and beyond, he decided to take the additional funding.

Agtonomy will partner with some of the most trusted names in equipment, delivering immediate value to local farmers who must make continuous improvements, deal with labor shortages and reduce field-to-table timelines, all while working with tight budgets and seasonal challenges. Bucher says that Agtonomy is as simple as calling an Uber driver. Using a mobile phone app, a farmer will be able to assign a job to one of the tractors, like mowing the field. He also believes self-driving technology like this, and what other companies like John Deere are doing, will help to alleviate the decades of labor shortages in farms around the world.

Currently, the role out to a commercial launch is expected to happen in 2023. Currently, +300,000 tractors are sold each year at a big six-figure cost. In contrast, Agtonomy’s autonomous vehicles will be smaller and cost much less at around $50,000. They believe eventually the larger farmers will purchase a swarm of smaller machines that can run 24 hours a day, be more environmentally friendly, not tear up the land, create less compaction, and be able to complete more precision tasks in a quicker manner.

Jim Adler, founding managing director of Toyota Ventures made an interesting observation when he recently commented that fully autonomous vehicles will become a reality on farms where they are more desperately needed much more quickly than they will on city streets. Think about it, many of the autonomous vehicles today do in fact cater to more of the “convenience technologies”, while companies in the agtech space are building similar vehicles in with what Bucher refers to as a “necessity technology”. It appears to be the right time, in the right space for Agtonomy when you consider that consumer demands, climate change objectives, clean energy, and labor shortages are presenting a perfect storm for rapidly evolving ag tech. 

Interestingly, according to Bucher, just a few short years ago, it was hard to get much of any VC attention related to agtech, but now he’s seeing an overwhelming interest from investors, and with the latest funds, the company will accelerate its trials and team up with additional partners to more quickly move along its activities and ability to double-down their production speeds. In the next few months, Agtonomy anticipates having 50 trials working out in the fields and doubling its current staff. I should mention that the company has a small fleet of what is called proof of concept electric vehicles that have been operating for a year at Bucher’s own Trattore Farms. I have to believe that this is a direction we may soon be headed in with the level of investors behind it including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Michael Dell, who all strongly believe in the mission to address the local farm and land maintenance labor crisis. I expect it won’t be all that long before we see the swarms of autonomy across America’s acres. (Source: techcrunch, prnnewswire,

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