Corbett Kull doesn't pull any punches when he talks about farmland rents. His startup Tillable gained some notoriety in 2020 when it appeared his firm was helping landowners more than renters. The feathers were ruffled, but as more transparency comes to the rental market, he's also learning that there are other opportunities in the land rental market.
"With our system, we find that the landlord and tenant don't change," he says. "They continue to work together, but each is working with more information."
And the information he's picked up is that getting cash to rent land isn't always easy. That created an opportunity, and Tillable has announced the creation of Tillable Finance, which aims to facilitate more than $100 million in farmer financing through mid-2022. The focus will be to provide financing for farmers seeking to rent more land. The program is available in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, with plans for future Midwest expansion by fall.
"The genesis of this is twofold," Kull tells Farm Progress. "No. 1, in our experience in working with growers that have rented land on Tillable, they've got to go back to their bank and get their operating loan expanded, or whatever."
He notes that this can take several weeks, and when he learned that, he saw an opportunity.
The second opportunity was the chance to create value on both sides of the market. "We're trying to bring transparency to the farmland rental market. But on the farmer side, we're always looking for ways to increase the value on that side of the market," he says.
Kull adds that today's banks largely still operate on a paper-based system, which he says creates other challenges. "We're a technology company, so we're trying to do this in a digital fashion, to make it very easy," he adds. "So, no more paper and pencil, and we're trying to make it quick. Our goal is to try to get borrowers approved in 24 to 48 hours."
He adds that once approved, when March 1 farm rent time arrives, the payment is automatically made to the landowner, and Tillable Finance will facilitate repayment at the end of the season.
About 80% of U.S. farmers rent some of their land, according to Kull. And those arrangements can range from 100% cash due at the beginning of the season to a range of terms. "We've seen a range of things including 25% up front and 75% at the end of the year," he says. "That doesn't matter to us; whatever amount they need to borrow, they can apply for and it can be paid automatically."
He notes that farmers have already found other finance options for their farms from cash for equipment to crop protection. "But they haven't had a way to easily finance their rent until now," he says.
While making it easier for farmers to get cash for rent, the Tillable Finance system benefits landowners too. They receive guaranteed on-time payments if the farmer uses the system. "Landowners can stick with their existing farmer while still using Tillable to put a digital lease in place and track activities on their farm," he says.
The application system is fully online, and available 24/7. There are on-call teams available to answer questions. And interest rates are as low as 3.5%, without a mortgage. "These loans are usually paid back by Dec. 1," he adds.
Tillable, which has a land rental marketplace, is launching a Sustainable Flex Lease product. The idea is to help landowners and farmers agree on and monitor sustainable farming practices. The product provides farmers tools to report activities performed on the farm to the landowners, and distributes payment depending on the performance of the farm and specifics to the lease agreement. The platform will also support enrollment in carbon credit programs.
The service can help landowners work with their existing farmers to implement sustainable farming practices. And it allows farmers who follow the practices to gain added acres that may require sustainable farming as part of the lease agreement. This program will start in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Learn more at tillable.com.