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Grand Farm Project Overview: Turning Geospatial Data Into Digital Systems Integrations

During the 2020 growing season at the Grand Farm, there were 41 projects conducted, including the work of nine partners. On August 20, 2020, William Aderholdt, PhD of Grand Farm and Stu Adam of Agronomeye co-presented findings from one of these projects. This particular case study utilized geospatial data from throughout the growing season for digital systems integration.

Grand Farm’s success is built with an ecosystem of forward-thinkers working together. Yes,  advancements in agriculture technology are the outward goal of the project, but the beauty of the Grand Farm lies in its mission to facilitate conversations and opportunities between industry, researchers, and thought leaders in AgTech. The conversations, connections and collaborations are the linchpin behind the overall demonstration-based mission.

Alongside Grand Farm and Agronomeye, Field of View, CHS, NDSU Precision Agriculture, ND Agriculture Experiment Station, Be More Colorful, Ellingson, Raven Industries and iSight Drone Services were engaged in this project. 

To start the project off, time-series geospatial data from the Grand Farm had to be collected. The Grand Farm Program Management Office worked with David Dvorak, CEO of Field of View; Dr. Caley Gash and Joel Bell of NDSU Research Extension; and Dr. Paulo Flores of NDSU Precision Ag to collect these images. 

The data compiled in this phase included both UAV-collected and ground-collected data. This included insights into soil conductivity, soil moisture, soil cores, high-resolution imaging, RGB, NVDI, thermal and RTK. These total findings encompassed 10 demonstration, capability and research projects on the Grand Farm site. 

To bring this initial data collection to life, CEO of Be More Colorful, Matt Chausse, created a 360-degree map of the Grand Farm. This map was created with geospatial information provided by CHS Field trials by CHS Agronomy’s Devin Wirth. 

The subsequent step in this project was to move to the next level of digital system integration. To do this, Grand Farm enlisted a mapping software company, Agronomeye. Agronomeye is a Sydney, Australia-based augmented reality company focused on digitizing agriculture. By using geospatial maps, Agronomeye’s technology helps growers and landowners look at their entire farming system through one lens. The company was brought into Grand Farm’s attention upon engaging in the first cohort of Plug-and-Play North Dakota.

Stu Adam, Co-founder of Agronomeye, and Dr. William Aderholdt, Grand Farm’s Director of Program Management, collected and integrated the aforementioned data into Agronomeye’s system. This integration led to an augmented reality map of the Grand Farm. This interactive map allowed data layers to be viewed over different time periods. “What geospatial and these types of applications provide is the ability to take the information that you’re pulling off of your land and consolidate it into a single application where  you can then view things through layers,” said Aderholdt. 

Previously, if farmers and land-owners wanted a holistic view of their land, they might have to drive around in their truck or hope that Google Earth captured a recent image of the site. With this technology and application, they now can look at this map and manipulate it to add layers and show a real 3D image, similar to that of augmented reality. Throughout the Grand Farm demonstrations, a lot of satellite and drone imagery, soil maps, NDVI (Normalized difference vegetation index) and such have been collected. All these things are very important when you’re trying to evaluate the health of your land and crops, but how do they all work together? Aderholdt presented Agronomeye with Grand Farm’s collection of this raw data and Adam got to work to consolidate it in a visual, strategic manner. 

“These applications allow for a visualization of the data that wasn’t previously available. You’d have to open up many applications at a time, and then you couldn’t overlay them, so it was a lot of guesswork going on. This just makes it very easy for someone to see and to understand what is going on,” said Aderholdt. 

Speaking on some of the goals of this particular geospatial and augmented reality project, Aderholdt added, “It’s being able to show how we were able to take these initial conversations and demonstrations and tie them all together with a single project.” 

The second big goal of this project was establishing an international presence. When presenting the project’s findings at Plug and Play’s AgTech Innovation Day in August, Aderholdt and Adam co-presented to a live audience. The recording of the presentation got shared on LinkedIn and Facebook, quickly accumulating over 10,000 impressions. What the Grand Farm team found most exciting was that over half of those impressions came from outside the United States. “It quickly gave us global outreach and elevated the conversation. We were all of a sudden presenting in Germany, in Australia, in Denmark,” said Aderholdt. “I don’t think that would have been possible without the contribution of Agronomeye and being able to bring together our other partners’ work into a single format through our platform.” 

This global attention is sure to grow the scope of opportunities for the Grand Farm’s future work. Off the tail of this one demonstration, Grand Farm partners are continuing conversations with the Australian government and the Australian equivalents of Grand Farm.

“The Grand Farm is a place, but since this [project], it changed from Grand Farm being a place down the street in south Fargo to more of a global ecosystem. It’s this global ecosystem, rather than being confined to a single geography,” said Aderholdt. “That’s where we shift our perspective a little bit, because we do have the test site where we bring people and we do projects, but we facilitate those projects from around the world. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the Grand Farm test site or if they’re in Australia.” 

The next phase in this large-scale project is to add in even more partners. In 2021, this project will be elaborated on with the addition of Ellingson Companies, SatShot, and iSightPro.  Ellingson Companies, a construction company focusing on water technologies, will use these initial 10 projects for integration into their insight application. iSight Drone Services will join in to add to the foundational data layers. And SatShot will provide detailed satellite imagery throughout the growing season.

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