In order to feed the growing global population on less land and more sustainably, a strategic shift in agriculture will be needed. To address this needed innovation, the Grand Farm has been created in hopes of facilitating the first fully autonomous farm by the year 2025. The Grand Farm will introduce a collaborative approach, harnessing the region’s talents and experiences while attracting additional partners to assist us in bringing the effort to life.
To accomplish this task, Grand Farm will focus on five pillars:
1. Building a world-class ecosystem focused on advanced technologies in agriculture
2. Innovation – research, acceleration of startups and collaboration
3. Makerspace – creating a test site for rapid prototyping of autonomous technologies
4. Accelerated learning to upskill the workforce
5. Promoting autonomous-friendly policy
Autonomous farming will make farmers more efficient while also increasing profits and providing additional access to agriculture for new farmers. The Grand Farm initiative aims to be a catalyst of change to improve our region, as well as positively impact humanity.
Grand Farm will address four main concerns:
Feeding a growing population — Within the next 30 years, the solutions and continued advancement of technology will be imperative to feeding the world. With an estimated world population of 10 billion people by 2050, leadership across sectors such as technology, business, education and government will be critical to producing integrative solutions to solve world hunger.
Farm labor shortage — The United States has been in the midst of a well-known farm labor shortage for decades. Over the course of the past 50 years, more and more Americans have been moving to cities and other urban areas, leaving fewer people in rural areas to work on farms. Autonomous farming will help alleviate this issue.
Lack of venture capital — The Midwest has historically struggled to attract venture capital in comparison with other geographical areas in the United States. This has limited risk capital and has significantly decreased the opportunities for commercialization. Grand Farm will be designed to facilitate the connections between capital and innovative businesses in agriculture.
Workforce skills gap — Low unemployment combined with a growing need for STEM-based jobs are forcing the U.S. to rethink education. In the coming years, the region will need to find a way to fill its open job positions by not just implementing 21st-century curriculum changes for K-12, but also by helping mid-career individuals transition to new careers in technology-related fields.
Why Build it Here? And Why Us?
The Great Plains, specifically the Red River Valley, is uniquely positioned to lead the nation’s efforts in autonomous farming. Both private and public sector organizations in the region are starting to make great strides in the creation of hardware, software and autonomous technologies required to meet this challenge. Our region has a rich tradition of innovators in agriculture taking on difficult challenges.
Additionally, the mechanization of farming in the Red River Valley has developed around companies and university interactions, setting the stage for what Barry Batcheller described as “Robsention Valley” at TEDxFargo in 2018. Batcheller described how innovation started in the region: Steiger Tractor became Case IH and Phoenix International became John Deere Electronic Solutions. As these companies became more successful, more offshoot businesses were started.
On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy challenged the country to go to the moon. Kennedy invoked the pioneering spirit that has dominated American culture and, in the process, excited millions to dream big. The by-product from this speech was not only space exploration but also the inspiration of scientists who have led modern technological advances. The Grand Farm is our community’s moonshot, led by a talented, experienced and dedicated team.
The Grand Farm initiative is designed to take this moonshot idea and drive activities that enable awareness, collaboration, development and deployment of identified requirements for the fully autonomous farm.
It is our responsibility to harness the experience, talent and potential of our region to feed a growing population. It is our opportunity to improve the human condition. Join us.
The Grand Farm Steering Committee
Lauris Molbert, Venture Partner, Arthur Ventures – Steering Committee Chair
Christi Offutt, Chair of RD Offutt Co.
Barry Batcheller, Chair of Appareo
Tammy Miller, CEO of Border States Electric
Jake Joraanstad, Cofounder of Bushel
Eric Hardmeyer, CEO Bank of North Dakota
Kevin Biffert, Founder of Fargo Automation
Mike Derheim, CoFounder of The Nerdery & Prime Digital Academy
Michelle Kommer, Commissioner of ND Department of Commerce
Keith Kreps, RDO Equipment Executive Vice President
Greg Tehven, Founder of Emerging Prairie
Learn more at GrandFarm.com