The Dakota Smart Farm is a Closer Reality Than You Might Think
Since its inception, Grand Farm has been at the cusp of seeking innovation, helping fuel the fire of the ever-developing ag tech industry, and connecting technology and resources to growers. In 2022, Grand Farm began phase one of its Innovation Campus near Casselton, which included 140 acres of land that will be used for collaboration, research, and demonstrations, and a 25,000-square-foot facility to host groups, demonstrate technology, and upskill the region. Fast forward to September of this year, Grand Farm held a special press conference on the campus grounds, announcing the beginning of phase two: a partnership with AGCO, which will bring a whole new world of opportunities and resources to the Grand Farm Innovation Campus.
Grand Farm noted that Dakota Smart Farm (DSF) will be one of only a handful of such test farms that AGCO has around the world, signaling this region’s continued leadership in agriculture globally. “This region has a strong history of agricultural innovation and continues to be a leader today— this partnership with AGCO will help keep the region at the forefront of that,” the Grand Farm team said.
ND Lieutenant Governor Tammy Miller announced the AGCO Grand Farm partnership during the September press conference. “The Dakota Smart Farm will further cement North Dakota’s reputation as a global leader in cutting-edge ag technology, as AGCO brings its considerable expertise and strong track record of innovation to Grand Farm to create the farm of the future,” she said.
Seth Crawford, Senior Vice President and General
Manager, Precision Ag and Digital for AGCO voices his
excitement for the partnership with Grand Farm during the
September press conference. “By combining the power of
precision agriculture with retrofit technologies, we can enable
more farmers to achieve higher productivity, profitability,
A Look Inside Grand Farm's Innovation Shop
Exclusive Interview with David Batcheller General Manager, Appareo
I had the privilege of sitting down with Appareo’s General Manager, David Batcheller to get his insight on the partnership with Grand Farm and what we can expect to see as it develops. (note to reader: Appareo is owned by AGCO)
From concept to reality
Batcheller credits the early concepts of what AGCO would bring to Grand Farm’s Innovation Campus to his father, Barry Batcheller. In short, Barry spoke at TEDxFargo in 2018 about the possibilities and potential Fargo has in becoming a national ag tech powerhouse, and how the Fargo-Moorhead community can, and should, support the growth to making that a reality.
Scan the code to watch Barry Batcheller’s TEDxFargo talk, “How Fargo, ND Could Become Robosention Valley.”
The team at Emerging Prairie latched on to the idea Barry shared, and they started taking steps to build Grand Farm. Batcheller expressed gratitude towards the efforts of many individuals, particularly Brian Carroll and the team at Emerging Prairie, for making this collaboration a reality. He emphasized the significance of demonstrating immediate value propositions to growers, particularly in effectively managing agricultural equipment and leveraging technology for financial benefits.
He acknowledged the complexity of demonstrating the long-term benefits of sustainable practices in agriculture, noting that it often takes time and multiple iterations to see tangible results, which is exactly why AGCO partnered with Grand Farm; to provide the resources and tech to make “sustainable” more attainable across the board.
Seeing AGCO’s expertise come to life at the Dakota Smart Farm
Batcheller outlined AGCO’s mission at Dakota Smart Farm, which focused on the intersection of precision technologies and economic implications for growers. “It’s really about demonstrating practical decisions to growers that create favorable economic outcomes,” he said. The strong emphasis for the purpose of the Dakota Smart Farm is to be future-focused. Since farmers and growers are living in the here and now, the DSF allows for experimentation and trying new things that don’t risk current outcomes but rather help gauge and plan for future possibilities, and eventually, marry the two so that the farmers of the future have the resources, precision, and technologies to take their operations to the next level.
David highlighted their objective of educating and sharing insights with growers, aiming to bring “100 people a day for 100 days straight through the farm every summer.” He also mentioned their inclusive approach to bringing in a variety of equipment manufacturers, bringing an extra layer of value. Batcheller expressed excitement for AGCO’s ongoing endeavor and praised the agricultural technology hub in Fargo, noting the presence of major machinery manufacturers and equipment dealerships and headquarters in the metro like John Deere, CASE, Bobcat/Doosan, and others that help reinforce Fargo as a national powerhouse for the ag-tech industry.
How Dakota Smart Farm will help address workforce challenges
Although workforce challenges continue to be a hot topic in the ag world, Batcheller believes the Dakota Smart Farm will help address these challenges with some unique approaches. One key aspect was the advancement of technology, specifically in making equipment smarter and ultimately autonomous. “Building capabilities to make equipment smarter makes it more realistic to make equipment autonomous, which reduces workforce needs,” he said.
AGCO’s piece in this is providing technologies and resources to the research fields, shining a light on current challenges, trying new things, and ultimately problem-solving to enhance efficiencies.
Another critical aspect was making equipment more user-friendly. “As the equipment gets smarter, it also makes it easier to use,” he said. “By minimizing the expertise required to operate machinery, they aim to broaden the pool of potential operators, thereby alleviating the workforce challenge.”
Creating opportunities for students
The third component involved is providing hands-on farm experiences, targeting individuals ranging from interns to high school students, and creating unique opportunities with NDSU, FFA, and other education organizations. David emphasized that Dakota Smart Farm wasn’t solely for current growers, but also served as an opportunity to inspire and engage future participants in agriculture.
“It’s an opportunity for people to come and experience and be excited about the future of agriculture,” he said. “I think that by motivating and exciting future participants in the agricultural workforce, we have the opportunity to create a pipeline for more people to be in the workforce, which is super important. Also through technology, we have an opportunity to reduce the demands on the workforce, both in the capacity of the workforce and in the capabilities and training required to to equip it. And so I think that Dakota Smart Farm is important for that challenge.”
Batcheller commented on the current state of precision agricultural technologies, remarking that while they are often perceived as ubiquitous, their market adoption and understanding are not as widespread as one might think. He pointed out that there’s roughly a 30% penetration of precision ag technologies, indicating that a significant portion of growers could benefit from further education and utilization of available technologies.
“Part of what we’re trying to do with Dakota Smart Farm is push the boundaries of what’s possible and bring us into a better future to agricultural technologies,” he said.
Batcheller expressed a strong desire to showcase these opportunities at Dakota Smart Farm to the farming community, underlining the potential for substantial positive impacts. “We want to show them that there are real opportunities [at Dakota Smart Farm],” he said.
He emphasized the dual purpose of Dakota Smart Farm: not only to pioneer advancements in agricultural technologies but also to educate and empower the alleged 70% of growers who could greatly enhance their farming practices with existing tools. He believes this will lead to quick wins for both the community and individual growers.