Renting a farm can now be as easy as finding a vacation home.
Tillable, a website that connects landowners and growers, aims to bring transparency to the $32 billion U.S. farmland rental market. The startup, which offers digital leases to streamline rentals, is being backed by investors including The Production Board, an agtech investment company, and venture firm First Round Capital, with about $8 million in Series A funding.
The online marketplace gathers data from property tax records to find landowners. Tillable then contacts them for additional information to be provided to prospective farmers. There are currently 5,000 landowners and growers on the site, which launched in mid-2018, and the company has plans to triple that number over the next few years.
"It’s very similar to what Zillow does," Tillable chief executive officer Corbett Kull said in a phone interview, referring to the housing search website.
About 40 percent of all American farmland is rented, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Lack of available data leads to under-priced rent, according to Kull. At the same time, some fields sit unused because families that own plots move away from farming but don’t want to give up the land.
Kull likened the potential for the unused farmland to the condos and vacation homes listed by property owners on Airbnb. Price is determined by grower offers, and each potential renter has a profile that includes details about their experience and equipment.
The idea was inspired by a friend who inherited his grandmother’s farmland and didn’t know what to do with it, he said. Kull previously founded 640 Labs, a platform that collects farming data. It was acquired by Climate Corp., the agtech company Monsanto Co. bought for $930 million in 2013.
Tillable plans to expand its marketing beyond its current focus on Illinois, Iowa and Southern Minnesota in the coming years.
"Land owners don’t really know what the market value for their farmland is," Kull said. "What we’re doing is running a price discovery process for them."