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Science on Tap: Combing agriculture and engineering for farming solutions

Farming has always been a part of Craig Rupp’s life.

He grew up on a farm in central Iowa.

When he worked the Climate Corporation, he saw first-hand the struggles farmers were going through.

“One major problem that kept them up at night was the lack of labor. It’s not the cost of labor, it’s just a lack of labor. These farmers are having a very difficult time finding labor that can help them throughout the year,” said Rupp.

Rupp combined his background in farming and his degrees in electrical engineering to find a solution. The result? Self-driving tractors.

His company, Sabanto, outfits tractors with GPS receivers, cellular communications, and a controller.

Then they monitor the tractors from hundreds of miles away while they do everything from planting to cultivating.

“It gets pretty eerie lying in bed at 11:00 at night looking at your cell phone watching this little tractor 600-plus miles away toiling in the fields in Nebraska,” said Rupp.

Rupp says autonomy is not going to be replacing famers.

Used correctly, he believes it can offer a much more economical and sustainable approach to the industry.

“By bringing autonomy into the picture, we have the ability to run longer hours with smaller equipment. It’s a very cost-effective option to perform various field operations more effectively,” he said.

Rupp is Wednesday’s Science on Tap-Minocqua speaker. He’ll be taking people through the history of his company and what it took to get where he is now.

“There were a lot of defining moments in the history of the company which took us down a fairly unique path that others are not taking,” said Rupp.

The presentation starts at 6:30 p.m. via zoom and YouTube.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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