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Grand Farm is Highlighting Innovation in Rural Connectivity

According to research by the McKinsey Center for Advanced Connectivity and the McKinsey Global Institute, if connectivity is implemented successfully in agriculture, the industry could tack on $500 billion in additional value to the global gross domestic product by 2030, amounting to a 7 to 9 percent improvement from its expected total that would alleviate much of the present pressure on farmers.

As sensors, autonomous vehicles and other forms of technology take on an increased presence on the farm, connectivity is increasingly important. However, rural communities are often the areas with the poorest connectivity. At its recent Innovation Series, Grand Farm explored the importance of investment and infrastructure when it comes to rural connectivity. Grand Farm’s Innovation Series is a regular meetup that covers a different topic in AgTech at each event, and serves as a gathering of entrepreneurs, industry professionals, and innovators.

Grand Farm co-hosted the event with the Technology Council of North Dakota (TechND), which promotes the use, growth and development of technology in North Dakota. Two of TechND’s board members, Justin Forde of Midco and Troy Walker of DCN, emceed.

Some of the speakers included…

Wabash Heartland Innovation Network

Ensuring that connectivity reaches every field is increasingly important as the digitalization of the agriculture industry continues. The Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN) highlighted their work to make sure the region they represent isn’t left behind.

This is a consortium of 10 counties in north-central Indiana devoted to working together to fuel prosperity by harnessing the power of Internet-enabled sensors to develop the region into a global epicenter of digital agricultural and next generation manufacturing. Through their Living Lab, they attract and vet technology providers, then work with them to lower the risk for their members to try out innovations. In the process, all the data gets sent back to WHIN to be organized and made available for research so more technology providers can be created.

Open Ag Technology and Systems Center

Building on WHIN’s efforts, attendees heard from Dennis R. Buckmaster, Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Dean’s Fellow for Digital Agriculture at Purdue University. He discussed his take on data science and digital agriculture, which are key components in the future of farming.

Dennis’ previous work at Penn State involved research emphasis in forage systems and horticultural mechanization and teaching in agricultural machinery design and systems management. His current focus is the realm of digital agriculture and applied data science. He coordinates and supports work across the college and university related to data driven agriculture. With devices and data, he and collaborators collect, curate, communicate, and compute for improved agriculture and food systems. He co-leads the Open Ag Technology and Systems (OATS) Center which fosters open source culture and develops solutions, speeding innovation and improving workforce. Dennis is an award winning teacher and co-coordinates the Agricultural Systems Management program; he teaches computing and management for these students.

Dakota Carrier Network

Taking a look closer to home, Dakota Carrier Network (DCN) shared their innovative history of rural broadband in North Dakota.

DCN began in 1996 as a unique partnership between 13 independent rural broadband service providers. Currently, they:

  • Have more than 40,000 miles of fiber deployed across North Dakota.
  • Employ more than 1,000 people that live in, work in, and give back to local communities.
  • Have a collective total plant investment worth more than $1.4 billion in North Dakota, and they have invested more than $100 million per year in fiber construction for each of the past five years.
  • Represent all the major local independent broadband service providers and serve more than 164,000 customers in 250 communities – more than 85 percent of all the exchanges in the state.


Tekniam is a startup focused on bringing connectivity to the most remote locations in the world by focusing on last mile connectivity. They showcased their customizable and instant solution for access to high speed cellular and broadband – Remote Universal Communication System (RUCS.) This is rapidly deployable, bringing reliable last mile and last acre connectivity to communities that need it most.

Farmer & Industry Panel

Having heard from organizations working to address issues impacting connectivity, Grand Farm’s Program Management Office Director Dr. William Aderholdt led a panel discussion on the importance of rural connectivity with 701x, Tekniam, and local grower Mark Otis.

Upcoming Grand Farm Events

Grand Farm has a number of upcoming events, which you can see at

  • Cultivate Conference – Thursday, June 30
  • Carbon’s Impact on the Future of Ag – Thursday, July 28
  • Autonomous Nation – Thursday, August 25

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