Photo by Hillary Ehlen
Cultivate is about gathering the right people in a room together to start a dialogue about ag tech in the Fargo-Moorhead area and beyond.
Jake Joraanstad, cofounder and CEO of Myriad Mobile, as well as a cofounder and board member at Emerging Prairie, sat down with Fargo INC! to discuss the upcoming conference.
How it all started
Jake Joraanstad: “I’d been talking with Greg Tehven, the executive director and other cofounder of Emerging Prairie, for a long time about how important it is to think about the advantages each state has. North Dakota, I believe, has competitive advantages in three areas: agriculture and energy, drones and autonomous technology, and e-commerce. We have a conference for both the drone and e-commerce routes but not for agriculture. That’s where the idea for Cultivate came from.”
What it will look like
JJ: “Every industry has an ecosystem, and we’ve had a lot of discussions about how to involve the entire ecosystem of agriculture into the conference, keeping in mind that it’s the farmer who’s at the center of it all.
“First, there’s precision farming or using technology to be better at producing greater yields. Next, there is seed technology—chemical, fertilizer, genetics—and producing better yields by having a better seed variety. Then, there’s autonomous farming and the technology around producing more with fewer man-powered hours. Finally, you go to the supply chain with the farmer selling what they’ve produced to a co-op or an elevator. Then, beyond that, farmers are feeding the world, and there’s the market of how to get the product to the grocery stores and consumers around the world.
“We’re trying to think about all of these aspects within the agricultural ecosystem and have speakers on each of those areas at the conference. Then, as we hear feedback from those who come, the conference will evolve toward whatever makes the most sense for our area of the country to focus on while still having a national focus. Although it’s going to be regional this time around, the goal is to host a similar concept to what Big Iron has become in North Dakota. Big Iron is one of the biggest conferences around the iron and machines of agriculture. We want to be a complimentary conference focusing instead on the software and technology side of agriculture. We think we can build something that’s eventually nationally and internationally known.”
JJ: “My favorite thing about the event so far is we’re having an ‘Angry Farmer Panel’ consisting of up to five farmers. We want them to discuss their problems, specifically those they face in technology and agriculture, and how people in the room can help fix those issues.
“We’re also bringing in some leading players like Granular, who was recently acquired by DuPont Pioneer, and DTN, who a lot of farmers know as a reliable source for agriculture-focused weather patterns and the bids for prices of grain.”
Against the stereotype
JJ: “We decided there hasn’t really been an event worth copying. We feel like a lot of those we’re aware of are a traditional view of what a conference is. There are a lot of events—Info Ag down in Texas—to take good examples from, but they’re still what you would expect: in a hotel, conference center, a lot of bland and boring walls and colors.
“If you know Emerging Prairie’s events, they’re different than other events. They’re going to bring in a lot of art, local foods and other interesting things to this conference to make it more fun. I think it’ll probably be the most unique agricultural conference that’s put on.”
JJ: “We don’t assume we know who the audience is yet. The people who show up to this first gathering are really going to dictate what content and information will be geared toward future audiences. My personal hope is that a lot of farmers show up to give input on what they really need. If you look at agriculture, the farmers are at the bottom of the food chain, but they’re also the main reason it works. If we can get a good presence of local and regional farmers to give input, I think the conference will have a better future.
“The first round of Cultivate is going to be a smaller conference with 200, maybe 250, people. After November’s conference, the plan is to have another in the spring. We want to start to build momentum toward a larger conference similar to Drone Focus, which ended up with more than 600 people this year. We expect Cultivate to be at a similar scale in the near future.”