How Chicago-Based Tillable Makes It Easier To Rent A Farm

By Dan Anderson ● March 6, 2019

Chicago-based Tillable is a service that connects landowner and growers has been expanding at a rapid pace. Tillable is known for bringing transparency to the $32 billion U.S. farmland rental market and is bringing digital leases to streamline rentals.

How does Tillable work?  The company gathers data from property tax records to find landowners and then contacts them for more information to be provided to prospective farmers. Currently, there’s are 5,000 landowners and growers utilizing the service.

Tillable helps farmers expand their operations by screening farmland based on price, acreage, soil type and location. This also helps landowners optimize the financial return on their land and gain visibility into how their acreage is used. And Tillable also captures data on land and farmer performance and it streamlines administration through standardized online leases and digital payments.

“Over 40 percent of all U.S. farmland is rented, and while landowners collect $32 billion in rent every year, it’s estimated that they leave $8 billion on the table due to underpriced rent,” said Tillable co-founder and CEO Corbett Kull. “But it’s not the landowners’ fault. The tools and data just haven’t been available to understand fair rental value for farmland or to aggregate demand among farmers, and this is especially true for the increasing number of landowners who do not live on or near their property. With Tillable, landowners and farmers both are in a much better position for long-term success.”

Launched in the middle of 2018, Tillable plans to triple that number over the next few years. This also helps solve the problem that only 40% of all American farmland is rented, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture data. And Kull told Bloomberg that the lack of available data leads to under-priced rent.

Often times, fields go unused because families that own the plots tend to move away from farming but they still want to keep the land. This is why Kull compares unused farmland available on Tillable to unused properties becoming available for rent through Airbnb. 

Kull also pointed out that landowners do not really know what the market value for their farmland is and so they are running a price discovery process for them.

The price is determined by grower offers. And each of the potential renters has a profile that lists their experience and equipment.

Kull said that the idea was inspired by a friend who inherited his grandmother’s farmland and did not know what to do with it. Previously, Kull launched a platform called 640 Labs — which collected farm data and got acquired by The Climate Corp. Kull also worked as the head of Chicago operations for The Climate Corporation following the acquisition. Monsanto bought Climate Corp. for $930 million in 2013.

Recently, Tillable announced it raised $8.25 million in Series A funding. With this funding, Tillable is planning to expand its marketing beyond the states of Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota.

This round of funding was led by agtech investment holding company The Production Board. First Round Capital also participated in this round.

“Tillable’s goal fits well with ours: to improve the efficiency and economics of global food and agriculture markets,” added The Production Board CEO and founder David Friedberg. “By applying sound economic principles and technology to an underserved market, Tillable is improving the information exchange between landowners and farmers, which will in turn help maximize both the value and responsible use of America’s farmland.”

With this round of funding, Tillable is going to expand its engineering, sales, and marketing teams in order to accelerate its efforts to attract landowners and farmers to the platform ahead of the 2020 growing season.