Embracing Autonomous Technology Helps Illinois Farmer Achieve Efficiency Goal

“There’s a large population of farmers like Dave who want to be at the forefront of agriculture,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sabanto’s Kubota fleet covers more acres every year. The company first worked hundreds of acres with one or two autonomous tractors in the same field. In 2021, thousands of acres have been contracted with farmers. Sometimes six tractors worked simultaneously in several fields.

Sabanto was hired to do all the fieldwork on a 1,000 acre organic farm and a 750 acre conventional farm in 2021. Harvesting was the only thing not done independently.

“I’m inundated with calls every day from people who want to self-cultivate their land or me to automate their tractor,” Rupp said.

Sabanto bases its Custom Farm Rates on the Iowa State University Extension Farm’s annual Custom Rate Survey. The average planting rate in 2021 ranged from $20.66 to $24.55 per acre, depending on planter equipment and technology. Vertical tillage cost an average of $18.45 per acre.

Rupp said customers who want Sabanto’s autonomous hardware and technology installed in their tractor(s) will lease the equipment. An annual fee has not been determined, he added.


Working the land with self-contained equipment, Geils explained, solves a host of problems he and other farmers face. Labor shortages top the list.

Geils Farms is a row crop operation totaling nearly 20,000 acres in Illinois and Wisconsin. The farm, which has 15 full-time employees, is about 70 miles from Chicago and much closer to its suburbs. Keeping a full squad isn’t always easy.

“There’s a lot of competition for construction and manufacturing employees, so I have to pay more for labor than the farms in central Illinois — probably 30-40% more,” said Geils said.

Autonomous technology allows him or an employee to operate a combine or move grain from a combine to a tractor-trailer while monitoring an unmanned tractor pulling a work tool from the floor from his smartphone. This helps ease labor worries and increases efficiency since multiple farm tasks can be done with the same or fewer people.

Geils said more acres can be covered in a day using autonomous equipment since, unlike humans, machines don’t need a break. In the future, it could use smaller, cheaper equipment to do the same amount of work that its larger equipment does now. This can solve another worry of making sure the farm stays financially sound so it can pass it on to its children and future generations.

“I can see multiple self-driving tractors in my future,” Geils said. “It’s about reducing the cost of production…and (increasing) the bottom line.”


For more information:

— www.sabantoag.com

— Watch the technology in action at https://www.dtnpf.com/…

To see more stories in this High on Tech series, go to:

Editors’ notebook:


High on Tech – 1:


High Tech – 2


High Tech – 3


State of the art – 4


Matthew Wilde can be contacted at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter @progressivwilde