Driverless tractors are here to help with the severe labor shortage on farms

Driverless tractors are here to help with the severe labor shortage on...
Key Points
  • Bear Flag Robotics has raised $3.5 million in seed funding from True Ventures for self-driving tractors.
  • Autonomous farm equipment can help farms weather labor shortages, and increase their crop yields.

The world population is expected to top 9 billion by 2050, according to forecasts from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. Yet arable land is in decline, along with soil health all over the world.

As a result, farmers are under pressure to produce more food with fewer resources. In the U.S., they're also facing massive labor shortages and new tariffs.

To give farmers an edge, Bear Flag robotics is developing completely autonomous tractors. Self-driving tractors and implements allow farmers to get hard work done around the clock, and in harsh weather when the competition for labor is steep.

Founded by Igino Cafiero and Aubrey Donnellan in 2017, Bear Flag Robotics just raised a $3.5 million round of seed funding from True Ventures.

Katie Brigham

"Imagine a farmer by the time they wake up at 5 in the morning, his or her field is already tilled, because the machine can wake up at 2 a.m., decide it's the right time to do it, and go pick the right implement from the garage or the barn, then till the fields," said Rohit Sharma, a True Ventures partner. "By the time the farmer has had their morning coffee, they have accomplished a set of things that prepares them to address more complex, everyday decision-making."

Bear Flag is looking to beat established farm equipment manufacturers to the market. Tractor makers, including Deere and CNS Global, have already announced plans to develop their own fully autonomous tractors.

Most importantly, said Donnellan, the company is focused on helping the agriculture industry meet the world's burgeoning nutritional needs. "We have to increase productivity 70 percent by 2050, can you believe that? It's incredible," Donnellan said.