U.S. firm buys remaining stake in DOT Technology

Majority owner Raven Industries buys full control

The U-shaped DOT A-U1 “loads” a SeedMaster row-crop planter on to its platform during a demonstration at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in September 2019. (Ralph Pearce photo)

The U.S. precision ag manufacturer holding the controlling stake in a made-in-Canada self-guiding farm equipment platform has made a deal to buy up the balance.

Raven Industries, which last November bought an undisclosed majority ownership share in DOT Technology — with an option to buy the remaining stake in the following 10 years — announced an agreement Monday to buy that remaining “noncontrolling interest.”

Sioux Falls, S.D. -based Raven said Monday its latest move is a “further indication of (its) confidence in its position to bring these innovations to market and expand its market share in precision ag technology.”

DOT’s principal product, unveiled at the Ag in Motion farm show in Saskatchewan in 2017, is a U-shaped, self-guiding, diesel-powered platform, built to handle various farm implements and use path planning technology to complete field tasks.

About 10 of the DOT Power Platform units operated in fields in Western Canada last year, and a demo unit made its first appearance in the East in September, handling a prototype planter as well as a seeder and dry fertilizer spreader at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.

Raven said last fall it would set DOT up in its Raven Applied Technology division, “in support of its strategic growth platform, Raven Autonomy.”

Its plan is to marry DOT to the SmartAg autonomous perception and path planning technology Raven bought last fall, and to Raven’s own technology platforms in guidance, steering and machine control.

Raven said it’s “currently moving forward with commercialization of Raven Autonomy and will be expanding its portfolio with new offerings, which will increase the value of autonomy to end-users at a rapid pace.”

Publicly-traded Raven, in its annual report released last week, said it plans to commercialize its first Raven Autonomy products in fiscal 2021 by bringing the DOT system and AutoCart to the market. The AutoCart system allows users to operate a driverless tractor and grain cart from the cab of a combine.

Raven’s Applied Technology arm, in the same report, said it expects to invest about $15 million in research and development and selling activities in 2021, having cut back its previous $20 million target “in light of the current economic environment.”

Raven and DOT had been working together since mid-2018, when DOT made plans to outfit its platform with Raven’s steering, guidance and propulsion tech.

Raven “has been a critical partner in helping to get DOT to where we are today,” Norbert Beaujot, DOT’s owner and founder, said last fall. “Our combined technologies will undoubtedly help accelerate speed to market and adoption of machine autonomation.”

Raven didn’t say Monday, nor last fall, how much it planned to pay for DOT or for Iowa-based SmartAg.

In last week’s annual report, however, Raven booked a US$56.4 million decrease in cash and cash equivalents from the previous quarter and described the decrease in cash as “primarily driven by the acquisition of Smart Ag and a majority ownership in DOT.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network



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