By William Aderholdt and Brian Carroll
The Grand Farm, located east of Horace, ND, is establishing an advanced agriculture technology ecosystem in North Dakota with a goal of building a fully autonomous farm by the year 2025. Advanced agriculture technology is a collection of techniques, methods and processes in the production of goods; some of these technologies include precision agriculture, autonomous farming, robotics and aerial surveying. Through this effort, North Dakota will establish and maintain a strong presence in the advanced agriculture industry, staying on the forefront of next-generation agriculture technologies and leading autonomous farming innovation, education and business into the future.
Originally a vision presented by Barry Batcheller at 1 Million Cups regarding the unique characteristics and strengths of our community, the Grand Farm is now quickly moving towards reality. The Grand Farm was established as a part of Emerging Prairie, an organization focused on developing and maintaining an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Fargo-Moorhead community. In May 2019, Fargo INC published an article introducing the Grand Farm. This summer, the Grand Farm team has been transferring the excitement of our initial momentum into action as we introduce a collaborative approach to harness the region’s talent through the focus of five strategic pillars:
Build a world-class ecosystem focused on advanced technologies in agriculture.
- Establish a platform to empower start-ups to establish operations in North Dakota.
- Develop a test site for rapid prototyping of autonomous technologies.
- Create an accelerated learning platform to upskill the workforce.
- Promote autonomous-friendly policy.
Today, we present seven exciting updates from the Grand Farm, which have occurred since May 2019.
1. North Dakota’s Code School: Emerging Digital Academy
Grand Farm’s momentum has turned into action with the announcement of federal funding totaling $200,0000 to support the launch of Emerging Digital Academy. The academy is an accelerated school designed to equip students with technical skills needed for jobs and to capitalize on our region’s potential in agriculture and technologies. This code school will be located in downtown Fargo. We are grateful that Governor Doug Burgum, in partnership with the North Dakota Department of Commerce, and the North Dakota Development Council for announcing the launch of the academy at TEDxFargo in July. The first cohort of students will begin April 2020!
2. State of Technology and Eggs and Issues
On August 6, Greg Tehven, co-founder of Emerging Prairie and the Grand Farm, Taya Spelhaug, Microsoft TechSpark Manager, and Jake Joraanstad, CEO of Bushel and co-founder of Emerging Prairie, spoke about the Grand Farm at Eggs and Issues. This was an opportunity to talk with the community directly and hear thoughts and questions about the Grand Farm. Eggs and Issues is a monthly event hosted by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce to discuss exciting topics occurring in our community.
At the State of Technology on August 14, Greg Tehven and Barry Batcheller, local entrepreneur and visionary behind the idea which became the Grand Farm, spoke about the progress the Grand Farm was making and the future of advanced agriculture technology in the Red River Valley. Dana Peterson, Policy Advisor for the United States Department of Agriculture, also spoke at State of Technology and discussed the importance of rural connectivity to rural communities and businesses. Peterson also visited Fargo to learn more about the Grand Farm following the visit from Sonny Perdue, the Secretary of Agriculture at the United States Department of Agriculture. While in town, Peterson met with local agriculture technology leaders at the Prairie Den to discuss data management and rural connectivity.
3. The Shed
Early in September, the Grand Farm had the first building placed on the test site land Kevin and Stacy Biffert donated to this project. The “Shed” is a home base for operations and event hosting. This 20’ x 40’ Mini Mobile Office houses the project concepts and operational plans for the Grand Farm. While this is only the first of many emplacements, it marks the progress of the Grand Farm Test Site, which will soon host 12 start-up businesses a year to prototype their agriculture technology products. In addition to planning for the future, the Shed has already given space to host two events with several more to come in 2019.
4. Big Data, Big Ideas
Hosted on the Microsoft campus in Fargo, the Big Data, Big Ideas workshop brought together 40 members of the Midwest Big Data Hub to discuss the future of data in agriculture. In attendance were researchers and teams from the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, Arizona State University, United States Department of Agriculture, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Wyoming, several businesses from the Fargo-Moorhead community and Grand Farm. The purpose of this event was to brainstorm projects for research teams to organize around over the next couple of years – of which, the Grand Farm will be involved in several.
5. Grand Farm Event Drone Roadshow
On September 10, Grand Farm brought Kansas State Polytechnic to present their agriculture drones to Fargo. They were joined by North Dakota State University and several local businesses. During this event, there were eight drone demonstrations, including both rotor and fixed-wing aircraft. In attendance were North Dakota State University’s Robotics and 3D Printing clubs and attendees from Big Data, Big Ideas. The drone demonstrations showcased the future of mapping and spraying unmanned aerial system technology. Several of the demonstrations included partial and fully autonomous flight.
6. Federal Communications Commission in Fargo
On September 16, Emerging Prairie welcomed Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to Fargo. This visit was an opportunity for many local entrepreneurs and leaders to meet with the Chairman and discuss their successes and efforts towards improving rural telecommunication and telemedicine. Chairman Pai gave a speech at the Grand Farm Test Site with many leaders from around the State of North Dakota about the future the Grand Farm can bring to North Dakota, the United States and the World. This event highlighted the importance of providing broadband to rural communities and the role the Grand Farm has in the future of farming.
7. AgLaunch & Memphis, TN
In the middle of September, the Grand Farm team was invited to attend a meeting in Memphis, TN, to discuss the future of agriculture. Three Grand Farm team members, Kevin Biffert, Brian Carroll and William Aderholdt, went to Memphis and met the AgLaunch team. AgLaunch is a farmer-centered program, which provides start-up businesses an opportunity to work with farmers to test their equipment in real-world settings. While in Memphis, the team also had an opportunity to tour AgriCenter, an agriculture research and technology program. At this tour, several demonstrations showcasing new agricultural technology were held.
The Grand Farm is looking forward to the future and will continue to involve the community in events presenting agriculture technology to the community. As we move towards the launch of the Emerging Digital Academy and the Grand Farm Test Site, there will continue to be exciting news to share with the Fargo-Moorhead community. We encourage those who want to know more about the Grand Farm and those looking to get involved to visit the website at GrandFarm.com. We also invite the community to attend our upcoming events, which you can hear about by filling out a contact form at the bottom of our webpage. To the future!