Future Farmer July/August 2022

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Future Farmer JULY/AUGUST 2022 2022 JULY/AUGUST

Howard Dahl Russia, Ukraine and The Future of Farming

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July/August 2022 Volume 3 Issue 4

Future Farmer Future Farmer is published 6 times a year and is direct mailed to farmers throughout North Dakota and Minnesota. Find us online at Futurefarmermag.com.

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Made by the Farmer, for the Farmer By Josiah Kopp

Photos by Josiah Kopp

Meet the Mastermind Behind Air Seeder Parts and Learn How He is Solving Major Issues for Farmers Made by the Farmer, for the Farmer— that's the story of Daniel Altepeter of Air Seeder Parts, LLC. Being a farmer and landowner since high school and farming 500 acres of land by age 23, Altepeter understands the importance of needing farm equipment that stands the test of time. He also knows the unfortunate truth that not all of it does. That's why he set out to build something better. 10


An Issue of Corrosion Having access to his farm shop was one of Altepeter's biggest assets on his family farm. If there was a repair that needed to be done or something that needed maintenance, they did the work all on their own. Through doing this, Altepeter learned at a young age which parts lasted and which parts eventually failed. At one point, these observations led to a very serious discovery— the air seeders the family were using were corroding from fertilizer due to the components being made of aluminum and mild steel. A concerned Altepeter was determined to find a solution, so he set out to modify his own air seeders with stainless steel components.




Finding a Solution

From Rendering to Reality

Altepeter took to the internet to find replacement parts. He searched obvious keywords like "stainless steel", "air seeder parts" and "John Deere parts" but came up empty. At the time, there was nothing available and no one was in the business of providing the stainless steel parts he desired. So, he decided to take matters into his own hands—or farm shop, if you will.

"I wasn't thinking so much about starting a company [back then]," said Altepeter. "I was just trying to make a meter to fit my air seeder—and I was going to make it my way."

"We need to [make this ourselves]," said Altepeter to one of his hired hands. And although to both of them it sounded like a great idea, they knew it was going to be very hard to design something. After all, they were not engineers; Altepeter went to college for farm business management. But they knew how to make things, and that was all they needed to start creating an idea. Too much time and money had been wasted on replacing the same components every few years and he was ready to create something better. At the time, Altepeter wasn't focused on creating a company, he just wanted to create a meter for himself that he could use. However, he realized that if he was having corrosion issues with his air seeders, other farmers probably were too. That's when Air Seeder Parts was born.

When Altepeter was deciding what business name to choose for a website, he wanted a name that people could easily remember, so what better domain name than airseederparts.com? 12


In terms of design, Altepeter had already been using a custom-made shut-off system for his meters that he made a few years earlier. After proven success, it was now time to take the components he had modified for personal use and turn that into a manufacturable design. One of the main issues with the old meters he was experiencing was that they had a double wall design that accumulated dust and particles that would, over time, cause the meter to absorb moisture to the point of swelling and causing distortion. So, with his new stainless steel design, Altepeter opted for a single wall design that would eliminate this issue. Now that he had a design he was pleased with, Altepeter connected with a designer to create his first 3D rendering. Unfortunately, some of the components he had designed on-screen weren't possible for the manufacturer's machining guidelines, so further revisions were necessary. Finally, the design came to life and all of the pieces were made. Similar to a children's wooden puzzle, Altepeter laid all the components out and assembled the newly designed meter, piece by piece—and everything fit perfectly! The next feat was to find a manufacturer to produce a final product. Because

working locally was important to Altepeter, he contacted a fabricator in Grand Forks to evaluate his design. After several meetings, the first meter housing, “The Boss Meter” was fabricated and assembled. The Boss Meter was structurally designed to fit OEM air carts. The original Boss Meter was made using corrosion-resistant 304-StainlessSteel and High Abrasion Wear Plastic. Components were built with CNC (Computer Numeric Control) lasers, press brakes, and mills to ensure consistency. The single-wall design prevented fertilizer and dust from accumulating, preventing swelling and distortion.

Into the Hands of Farmers The next step was marketing the air seeder parts and selling them. So in the spring of 2017, Altepeter had 25 units manufactured and attended an ag show to see how other farmers would respond. The result was staggering; all 25 units sold. That summer, Altpeter followed up with every grower who purchased each of the 25 meters and the feedback was positive. After making only a few slight tweaks, it was time to manufacture more units to market at the Big Iron Farm Show in West Fargo. This time, Altpeter had 50 units made to be sold—and it's a good thing he did. His meters continued to grab attention and demand for more units grew. Altpeter had groups of dealerships, some from as far as central Montana, come to him and say, "you sold one of these [meters] to my customers and they brought it in to have us install it, and we would like to sell these for you. Where do we sign?"

"Leaving Big Iron in the fall of '17, I realized that this was going to be a big thing," said Altepeter.

Leaving Big Iron in the fall of '17, I realized that this was going to be a big thing.

Keep in mind that he was still a full-time farmer, working roughly 5,000 acres of land. So the decision was made to scale back farming in order to invest more time and energy into his newly growing company. By that winter, he had a handful of dealers selling Air Seeder Parts products. It wasn’t long after, the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (OEM) Aftermarket Division connected with Altepeter in hopes to not only sell his Boss Meter regionally, but also through any dealership worldwide. The OEM liked what they saw in Altepeter’s designs and products, forming a partnership, selling Air Seeder Parts, exclusively, globally. Since then, Altepeter has been able to move his operation from his home farm office to a permanent location in Grand Forks. His company has grown from just two people to now twelve, ranging from engineers, assembly, business operations and marketing. Air Seeder Parts product line has increased from 1 part to almost 150 today. Current product offerings include meter housings, tank transition kits, single and double shoot manifolds, tubes, couplers, meter rollers, hardware and more – all made from high quality stainless steel and plastics. "It's like a little kid's dream that maybe someday he'd be making something for John Deere," Altpeter said.

First manufactured Boss Meter, 2017 FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM



Fun Fact Altepeter named his first meter housing "the Boss Meter." The "ss" in Boss stands for "stainless steel."

Full-Steam Ahead But for Altepeter, that's no reason to get comfortable. As more and more of his products are getting into the hands of dealers and farmers, one of his main goals is quality assurance and gaining feedback from customers. "Everyone has always been so happy with the product that we've sold," he said. "You can open up any John Deere parts catalog and find my brand of parts." For Altepeter, that's what he's most proud of—knowing that his passion for enhancing the quality of farming has come to fruition; his "see-a-need-fill-a-need" mentality is making a positive impact on farmers' lives. Since Air Seeder Parts has come onto the scene, other companies have started to follow suit—but none are farmers. Altepeter believes that his experience first as a farmer allows him to better understand what issues other farmers are having and be able to create solutions through unique design and testing that wouldn't be possible otherwise.

2949 27th Ave N, Grand Forks, ND 58203

So, what's next? Now that Air Seeder Parts are accessible globally, the possibilities are endless. Altepeter is using this opportunity to not only focus on stainless steel meters but now all parts of air seeders and drills. Made by the farmer, for the farmer. That's Air Seeder Parts.



Go to airseederparts.com to browse their entire catalog of parts!

A Conversation With

Howard Dahl ery few people are as worldly as Amity Technology Founder/CEO/President Howard Dahl who has a vast knowledge of the global agriculture landscape from a lifetime spent learning and trying to make things new and better.

By Brady Drake/Makenzi Johnson Photos by Josiah Kopp 16


His career in manufacturing began in 1977 after receiving his master's degree in philosophy of religion from the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. From there, he went on to start Concord Inc. with his brother, Brian Dahl. The duo built the company to be an innovative leader in the air seeders business, allowing countless farmers to move to no-till or direct seeding of their crops. In 1996, the company was sold to Case, but the soil sampling equipment and sugar beet equipment were retained in a new company, Amity Technology. The company has continued to be a leader in innovation of agricultural machinery.

You grew up in a household where it was all innovation and pushing things forward with farming technology, What was it like growing up in that environment? I don’t know any other environment. The greatest hint I can tell you is that my dad, two weeks before he died, as I was sitting with him said, “what are you doing that’s new?" That was his question. Two weeks before his death, "what are you doing that’s new?" He had this passion for creating better products and listening. When he was CEO at Steiger Tractor, Barry Batcheller was one of his engineers (before he went on to found Phoenix International and Appareo).

Barry had the idea of using computers to control engines and transmissions on off road equipment—no one had done that before. Barry talked to my dad about it and dad said, “that’s exciting, go ahead and do it.” The Steiger Series 4 was superior to any other tractors being made at that time.

to improve many machines. Even though he died before the Bobcat became part of the company, through a combination of innovative vision and hard work, he provided the foundation that allowed the Bobcat to be developed and succeed.

Was there any formal teaching that went on with any of that?

Was there ever a thought of not getting into the agricultural industry?

No, I just observed. I grew up in a town of 240 people, that was the size of Gwinner in 1960. Everything centered around the factory. My grandfather was called an inventor by necessity. He had a large farm and worked very hard, but felt the need

I actually spent six years away from North Dakota, working in student ministry and then going to graduate school. I missed the period when Steiger went from $2 million to $105 million of sales in a short time. I moved back here with the idea, at first,



of starting a company to do something for third-world agriculture. That was and remains a deep interest. We built a few prototypes of a simple tractor for the African market, but it was going to take so much capital to do it well. We pivoted and developed an air seeder that was just revolutionary. When I say “we,” I was not the inventor, I had a team of very creative people. I helped guide them and listened to them, but I’m not an engineer. It was a tough ten years getting off the ground and then it went like a rocket ship before we sold to Case IH in 1996. What does guiding and leading a group look like? It’s similar to being a coach. The coach will not be the best quarterback or lineman, but the coach needs to understand the roles of each player. In manufacturing, you need to have great engineers, great manufacturing people. You have to have strong financial management, for that is how you “keep score.” And of course you have to have sales which is like the blood of the company. Without sales, there’s nothing you can build. I think a good coach looks at all of them as equally important. I think the art of leadership is putting together a group of people that are confident and that you fully trust. Then, making sure they work together, not against each other. In some companies, there are rivalries between departments, even between people within the same department. Steven Covey wrote a wonderful book called The Speed of Trust. In companies where there’s a high-trust environment with teammates, you can get things done a lot better and a lot quicker. I think that really the most important thing you can do in leadership is to create that high trust environment. How have you gone about fostering that type of environment? I hired some really great people. When we started Concord, I wrote down objectives and one objective was to never have a blue collar/white collar dichotomy in the business. We do a quarterly board of directors meeting, but I also have a quarterly meeting for all of our employees where I give them an update on the



DID YOU KNOW? Howard Dahl is the grandson of E.G. Melroe, the Founder of the Melroe company which developed the Bobcat loader.

company, what’s happened in the past months, and how we see things going forward and then they can ask any questions they want. I really try to treat it like a board of directors meeting in its own right. There are other things we’ve done imperfectly, but we work very hard to make sure everybody feels valued.

We helped lower their field costs in some cases by 80%. We increased their moisture in the soil and helped produce better yields. So, we had farmers throughout the world tell us that it was a game changer for them. That was highly satisfying. It's no secret nobody is forced to buy anything that anybody builds. Our system is all voluntary and people vote with their checkbooks. If people don’t like what you’re building, they won’t buy it. If you don’t give them great service, then you’ll never have any repeat customers. If you’re looking long term, you have to make something that people really want and will add value to them. It's a tension getting value both ways. When we are pricing, we've got to be able to make some profit on it and it’s got to be a profitable decision for our customer. Every once and a while, we’ll build something that is a great product but it’s hard to sustain it and say, “this is going to be a good decision for us and our customers.” I think that’s a challenge everybody and every business has.

What are some things you wish you knew when you first got started? I’m glad I was naive about some things. You’re not supposed to develop a product and take on John Deere and Case IH headto-head because your chance of winning there is not very good. I’m glad I wasn’t intimidated by that and just focused on developing a great product. On the same day in June of 1995, Case IH and John Deere came and tried to buy our company. We had much better sales, much better products than either of them had. Having said that, I wish I had a little better financial understanding of cash flow management. The 80s were very difficult and we put way too much equipment on what’s called floorplan financing, where we put the equipment at a dealer and paid interest on it. We spent way too much money on interest. We built to the wholesale market, not to the retail market, so I would say that would have been, looking back, my biggest regret. Was there a specific life experience that sparked your interest and desire to help third world countries with agricultural development? In my case, it was my Biblical understanding and the importance I've learned from it about taking care of the poor. We are to open our hands and our hearts to the poor and needy. In fact, we’re still hoping to be involved in doing some projects with a number of African countries and doing soil lab work and helping with agronomy management. I’ve got a son who’s focusing on that. In the big picture, we had so many people who used the Concord air seeders that told us had they not bought our equipment, they wouldn’t have been able to continue farming.

You can’t read enough about the background, history and culture in a country before doing business there. It’s just so important to do all that so you can understand why they are the way they are." -Howard Dahl

How often does it happen where a product is designed but never goes to market? Quite often. We’ve had that experience a number of times. Are you constantly trying to develop new products? We are constantly talking about it. However, when we make a decision to actually build a prototype, it’s a lot easier today than it was 20 years ago because you can design the prototype on a computer and can do all the stress analysis right there on the computer. You can get very close to what the real machine will look like. It’s a wonderful tool that we have that we didn’t have 20 years ago, and for sure not 40 years ago. Do you have thoughts on the things that the average grower really isn’t thinking but maybe should be thinking about? All growers are wrestling with the whole carbon sequestration issue. I’ve spent a




the average farmer gets 40 chances. Each year is a new chance. Farmers are very good at looking at return on investment, what crops they choose to plant and where they plant. They are increasingly concerned about inputs so a lot more split application of nitrogen. If you put all your nitrogen on in the fall, you’ll lose some of it and the crop won’t utilize it. We’re seeing a lot more careful stewardship of all the inputs and I think that will continue. What are you planning to speak about at TedXFargo (this event took place July 21)?

lot of time thinking about it and talking about it with people but I still don’t see a reliable way to measure or quantify it. A lot of people are claiming they have breakthroughs, we'll see.

I was asked to speak on Russia/Ukraine. I’ve never done an 8-10 minute speech so I wrote down my thoughts and it was probably a 30-minute talk. So I had to cut it down. I’m leaving out a lot of interesting things but my goal is to wet people’s appetite to study the historical text and cultural context a little bit more to better understand the whole Russian/Ukrainian situation. Really, when you understand that, you understand a lot of global conflicts taking place in other countries as well.

In Europe right now, even the Netherlands, they're trying to limit the amount of nitrogen fertilizer they can use. The Netherlands, without increasing the amount of Nitrogen, has doubled their agriculture input in the last 20 years with very efficient usage of it. In Sri Lanka, the prime minister put out an order to do organic farming throughout the country. He was just thrown out of office because they were having mass crop-fail years. There are a lot of ideologies on climate that don’t have their understanding of how food production really works. I think there are going to be a lot of efficiencies and we’re going to see fertilizer used much more efficiently in the future. We will also see all herbicides being spot sprayed—making sure we're identifying certain weeds and spraying with the right chemicals and not wasting the herbicides and fungicides and pesticides.

Putting on the miles! Dahl has made 93 trips over the course of his lifetime, to Russia. If he were to have flown directly from Fargo to Moscow each of those 93 times, he would have flown approximately 454,305 miles!

Clearly, we’re going to see autonomous tractors, even this fall. John Deere has released a number of them for production. There’s still the conventional tractor and the cab is still there so it can be used conventionally as well. I think 10 years from now we’ll see autonomous everything. Is this an exciting time in agriculture for you, or do the uncertainties of today overshadow some of that?


Farmers are the ultimate entrepreneurs. Most risk a lot every year. Crop insurance has changed that risk a lot, but basically



How has the conflict affected your business? It’s tragic. We have eight employees in Russia and basically everything is on pause, we’re just not sure what we’re going to do. We’re still paying their salaries, but it’s been an important part of our business and we just don’t know going forward. In Ukraine, we have one employee but I serve as chair of the board of the largest sugar company in Ukraine and it’s hard to relate to the severity of the crisis. We had a tractor driver killed by a Russian plane when a missile hit the tractor. It’s tragic. You are extremely well traveled. How do you go about navigating the different cultural norms? You can’t read enough about the background, history and culture in a country before doing business there. It’s just so important to do all that so you can understand why they are the way they are. When you have information about another culture, whether it be a place like Russia or China, how much of what you do is to fit into their cultural norms, or are you just aware of them? You’re never going to imitate their norms but you can understand them. I’ve probably read a hundred books on Russian culture and Russian history for 35 plus years, reading two or three a year. I’m at a point where I know Russian history better than many of the Russians that I go with. China was a focus for a number of years for us but has not been a focus as of late. We sold some sugar beet equipment there and then they copied it and built a replica. It’s a very dangerous thing to take a machine into China where you don’t have intellectual property protection. We take for granted in the western world the rule of law which serves us very well but in most of the world bribes are a big part of doing business. We’ve learned very early on that in both Russia and Ukraine a lot of business is done through bribes.



What do you find most purposeful about your work today? I’d say today, I find purpose in the overwhelming challenges of inflation and supply chain disruption. It’s been as challenging a year as I have ever had. Never before have we needed greater team spirit, team cooperation and the ability to overcome unbelievable obstacles. Out in our assembly area, there are a number of hydraulic hoses that are being put on. Well, our usual supplier for those hoses is so far behind that we didn’t think we could get hydraulic hoses in time. So, we were fortunately able to find another supplier. However, there are other pieces we need that we aren't sure we'll be able to get before harvest. It’s a challenging time but to see people step up and respond and do extraordinary things is amazing. I use the word "purposeful" because it is purposeful to come in and help people who are working very hard and solving some big problems. How have you managed to keep up with the changes over time in the innovation in the agriculture business? What do you read, and what do you consume? A big part of my focus has been trying to better understand agronomy and the soil. It's physics, chemistry and biology all connected. One of the exciting things we have been involved in is FarmQA, a software company. We have a highly skilled team of ex-Microsoft developers who are creating a very robust platform for agronomists. We have a large number of agronomists using it, including many in North Dakota. They love it and it’s allowing them to better serve their customers. They basically create their own template for their agronomy. They are able to say, "these are the seven weeds I’m concerned about, these are the three diseases I’m concerned about, these are the pesticides that I need to think through." The role of the agronomist is to diagnose and then prescribe to the farmer what needs to be done. We use a recommendation tool and

analytics tool to greatly enhance the ability of an agronomist to support his farmer customer. Our interest in soils and in agronomy led us to start FarmQA, seven years ago. Now, we’re getting more and more traction and dealing with some very significant companies. When farmers are making a lot of money, they don’t manage their inputs as well as they could, if they were not making a lot of money. But there is no question that there is going to be increasing legislation to regulate all chemical and fertilizer inputs. This is the present reality in Europe, and today the buzz is around carbon sequestration. I think the tools we’re developing are going to be very helpful for all farmers. Is there anything new and exciting our readers might want to know about? The silage cart we built for Riverview Dairy called the Crop Chaser is a tribute to what happens when you listen well to a customer and then let talented engineers go to work. It was designed to empty 65,000 pounds of silage in 90 seconds. We have found since that it also works well for edible beans, sugar beets, corn, soybeans and wheat. For somebody that has a crop they can’t auger, like sugar beets or edible beans, we think it’s going to have a really interesting niche. I also would like to just say that it’s a privilege to serve farmers and listen to what farmers need and then respond. I can’t think of a better place to be in business than working with farmers. To learn more about Amity Technology, visit amitytech.com Facebook: /amitytechnology Twitter: @AmityTechnology

Renfandt's greenhouse in the making Photo Courtesy of Quinn Renfandt

THE FARMSTEAD 2.0 North Dakota farmer Quinn Renfandt is bringing new life into the way of small-scale, sustainable farming

How Renfandt is Setting an Example For Local Producers ABOUT QUINN RENFANDT Quinn Renfandt is a beginning farmer originally from Minot, N.D. He is a Special Projects Technician with the Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture located on the campus of Dakota College at Bottineau. Aside from his own history and interest in farming, Quinn has an extensive resume when it comes to sustainable agriculture. He is a Foundation for Agricultural and Rural Resources Management and Sustainability (FARRMS) Sustainable Agriculture Internship graduate and FARRMS Farmers Market Promotion Program Internship graduate, as well as a Farms Beginnings Course graduate. In addition to his background, Quinn is a founding member and the newly elected President of the Red River Harvest Cooperative. He has also been appointed to the North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association Board of Directors as the official representative for the Southeastern District of North Dakota. His current project has been in works for three years this summer, and he was willing to share his endeavors with the readers of Future Farmer. 24



hen you think North Dakota winters, you don't think about abundant produce production. However, Quinn Renfandt, a man who is very involved in the local food production scene, is trying to show that growing during our region's harshest season is not an impossible task while also pushing forward efforts for efficient, sustainable and profitable local food production. Renfandt, who is the President of the Red River Harvest Cooperative Board of Directors, recently managed a farmer's market commercial program grant with the North Dakota Farmer's Market Grower Association that canvassed North Dakota as a whole as well as the farmer's market scene in order to assess where we're at in the region in terms of production and local value. The personally funded year-round greenhouse growing

project that Renfandt is building out on his family farm, he sees as his personal contribution to this scene. Utilizing a greenhouse to grow produce year-round in harsh winters is nothing new. However, the sustainable way in which Renfandt is attempting to do it is not commonly practiced in the region.

THE SPECIFICS The project, which is in its third year and is entering its first operational winter growing season, is the product of observations Renfandt has made about how people around the world are growing food on small scales. "A lot of it has been [from] YouTubing things and learning that way. It's really nothing new," Renfandt said. "It's really to balance an ecosystem in a sustainable manner. I managed to get

A Foreword from Quinn Renfandt THE MISSING PIECES Ideally, when we step back and look at our region’s food system, we should see a dynamic network of stakeholders producing, processing, consuming and distributing as much of the population’s food as possible. This food is also purchased at multiple scales and levels within the same region, resulting in significant economic and social returns to all stakeholders, further maximizing resilience and minimizing importation needs. When we look at the current

SMALL-SCALE FOOD PRODUCTION A regional food system is extremely complex and involves many moving parts. For example, let’s look at local producers and growers selling to a farmers’ market. A local grower looking to start producing fruits, vegetables and/or value-added products for the local farmer's markets will need a few basic things. • • •

A place to produce their products, which could be land or some controlled environment facility. A place to sell it, in this case, the farmer’s market. Transportation to bring the products to the market and customers.

Beyond this, there are licenses and paperwork too, but I am primarily focusing on the continuous activities needed to successfully generate income as a small-scale farmer. •

After transporting the products to the market, the grower entrepreneurs need to devote time and energy to marketing their products.

WHAT IS THE FARMSTEAD 2.0? This is where Farmstead 2.0 comes to life. In short, the idea of creating the next-generation farmstead comes from my personal experience. My original intention was to focus on improving the food being served in schools near my farm. Selling produce at this scale is no easy endeavor. I realized I knew very little about farming practices and techniques when I set out to grow produce. No one had farmed in my family in over two generations, so there wasn’t anyone I could learn the old, traditional ways from directly. As I looked to the newer technological approaches, I soon concluded that these were beyond my means to use for learning. Instead of walking away, I decided to see the hidden advantages in an unfortunate circumstance and took it upon myself to learn by doing. My desire to do this can be found in nature.

status of our region’s actual food system, we’ll find many missing pieces, including the network itself. This leaves our citizens and communities without the major benefits provided by a regional food system. So, what are the missing pieces? And after identifying those pieces, where do we begin our efforts in establishing a more sustainable regional food system? Before answering those questions, I’ll outline a little more context to concentrate our focus on small-scale food production.

• •

Equally, if not arguably more important, they have to integrate themselves as part of the brand to prospective customers. If a producer wishes to move beyond the farmers market arena, let’s say local restaurants or maybe an institutional buyer, i.e., hospitals, schools, etc., they also must keep records of everything that is happening in their operations, as required by the health department.

All these things are needed to even begin growing as an individual producer. Most producers in the region are on their own for most of these tasks. They are limited to the labor available to them and their operation. When we ask the question of what is missing from smaller-scale growing and farming operations in our region, understanding the amount of physical work the production process requires is crucial to begin to understand what they may need. The greatest barrier for producers right now is the cost to get their products to customers and the climatic factors influencing the length of each growing season, which further limits their production capacity. This in turn makes it unreliable for local customers and other food businesses—including grocery stores and restaurants—to source local goods.

mutually shared needs for nutrients is entirely beyond our control and reliant on a complex globalized supply chain that isn’t very adaptable to change, especially nothing immediate or abrupt. North Dakota sits in the geographical center of the North American continent. Another way of thinking about this is to imagine a line of people that’s about ten people long, and right now you’re standing at one of the ends. The person at the other end is handed a loaf of bread and is instructed to take what they need then pass it to the next person. No matter what, you will be the last person to receive what’s left of the loaf and you are entirely at the mercy of everyone else before you. This is where North Dakota stands in the global supply chain line. I don’t know about you, but considering recent events that proved this scenario to be true, I believe we need to rethink how we manage our food supply in this region. Farmsteads of the future will need to address and overcome this fault in our system.

There are changes happening across the globe right now, causing shifts in our weather patterns here in this region. Most of the food consumed here is imported. Meaning our most fundamental and



my greenhouse material from a greenhouse business that had gotten shut down. So that part is recycled. All of the tubing and everything was purchased from a local store. All of the fans are recycled fans from old furnaces— getting those was just a matter of seeing when people got a new furnace and dumped their old one at the dumpster." In addition to the sustainable sourcing of materials, Renfandt has a goal to ultimately make his greenhouse energy positive, or at the very least, energy neutral. "That will mean using geothermal heat instead of fossil fuels, using solar panels and using and storing heat from the compost pile for use through the winter as well," Renfandt said. "I'll also be using basic sensors to monitor everything like the humidity for example. So I can know what will work in my greenhouse and what won't." For now, Renfandt will start with heirloom tomatoes grown either in soil or with a hydroponic setup with a goal of eventually having a fully autonomous, year-round, sustainable greenhouse with an aquaponic setup for efficient protein production as well. "That's where I want to get with that," Renfandt said. "However, the learning curve there is quite long. That's why I'm starting with the heirloom tomatoes, in order to build everything out."

THE HURDLES During his work with the North Dakota Farmer's Market Growers Association, Renfandt identified connecting local producers with customers as well as the biggest hurdle facing small-time producers. "It's very difficult trying to create your own basic distribution network for your food," Renfandt said. "If you aren't big enough, you're not going to have enough produce to tap into the major carriers. So then, what do you do? Most of the grocery stores already have their own transportation networks. So getting your food from point A to point B and building those relationships with purchasers is a really big hurdle. Addressing that is really about connecting with people and trying to get them to understand why they want to buy local or what that means to them, whether it be about the environmental benefits or economic benefits of investing in the local area." When it comes to the actual nuts and bolts of his personal greenhouse project, the biggest hurdles Renfandt is facing along his path to his ultimate aquaponic goal (in addition to the vast learning curve), is the implementation of energy production for the greenhouse. "The expense for solar is something I haven't figured out yet," Renfandt said. "I'm not sure



how I want to tackle that. Until I do, I will need a minimal amount of energy from the grid for the lighting, fans and internet for the sensors."

THE BENEFITS One of the biggest lessons we've learned since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance and vulnerability of the supply chain. For many products, supply chain disruptance is an annoyance. For a region as desolate as ours is in the winter, a major food supply chain issue could have devastating effects, hence the focus to figure out year-round sustainable local food production in our region, just as Renfandt is attempting to do. "Ultimately, we have an environment that's changing on a global scale. Supply chain issues are happening on a global scale. My argument for localizing food isn't necessarily an economic argument. My argument is that this is better than having no other option. In the winter, we are very vulnerable here with us having to transport foods such great distances."

Autonomous Nation An Exclusive Inside-Look at the Upcoming Event By Josiah Kopp


utonomous Nation (formerly known as Drone Focus) is a full-day conference bringing together policymakers from the local, state and national levels with industry entrepreneurs and innovators in an attempt to help make our region the most autonomous-friendly area in the country. The conference will focus on the autonomous industry 28


and the impact it can have across our region, solving issues such as workforce shortages, inefficiencies and technology gaps. We sat down with some of the names speaking at this year's conference including U.S. Senator John Hoeven, NDDOT CEO Bill Panos and Jeff DeCoux of Autonomy Institute to provide an

brought to you by

Mark your calendars

25 August 25


Photo Provided by Emerging Prairie

Microsoft's Fargo Campus

exclusive inside look at what they'll be sharing at the conference and why you should be excited for what is on going right now in the world of autonomy.


visit grandfarm.com/autonomous-nation



Schedule Breakdown

8am-1pm Autonomous Nation Conference Microsoft Fargo Campus

1pm-2pm Transit from Microsoft Fargo Campus to Grand Farm Hub Site

2pm-4pm Autonomous Demonstrations Grand Farm Hub Site - Horace, ND



What to expect Access to policymakers One of North Dakota’s competitive advantages is our access to policymakers. Emerging Prairie will be inviting local and state lawmakers and are looking at bringing in federal lawmakers as well.

Relevant Content Throughout the event, you will find that the content is woven together in a narrative focused on building the infrastructure, policies, software, hardware and tools for the autonomous nation of the future.

Real-time Demonstrations Emerging Prairie will work with the industry to bring some of the latest autonomous equipment to demonstrate during the event.

Audience Policymakers at the local, state and national levels Economic developers Industry interested in reaching policymakers


Meet the questions?

Dr. Mark Askelson Executive Director, Research Institute for Autonomous Systems (RIAS)

Gray Byers Business Development, Airtonomy

Dr. Paulo Flores

Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, North Dakota State University

If you are interested in getting involved, email or call Andrew Jason AndrewJ@EmergingPrairie.com 218.556.2922



Josh Riedy Founder and CEO, Airtonomy

Photos Provided by Emerging Prairie

Bill Panos

Sen. John Hoeven

Gene Avakyan

Director, North Dakota Department of Transportation

United States Senator North Dakota

CEO and Co-founder Edison Aerospace

William Cromarty

Ginny Crowson

Jeff Decoux

Director of Business Development, Airial Robotics

Director, Connected and Automated Vehicles Minnesota Department of Transportation

Chairman, Autonomy Institute

Sarah Lovas

Vanessa Kummer

Zach Peterson

Grower, North Dakota

Grower, North Dakota

Director of Business Development, Vigilant Aerospace Systems

Matt Sather

Dr. Xin (Rex) Sun

Trevor Woods

General Manager, Botlink

Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, North Dakota State University

Executive Director, Northern Plains UAS Test Site



MEET THE SPEAKER Q&A with Senator John Hoeven 34


When did this journey of autonomy first begin for you? Back in 2005, when I was governor, we started this whole effort into unmanned aviation technology, drones or UAS, unmanned aerial systems. We started a program that I called "centers of excellence," wherein we provided funding and formed partnerships with businesses and with universities. One of these was the center of excellence for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) at Grand Forks, which was the first of its kind in the nation. We really led the foray into unmanned technology for aviation which was a very nascent industry at that time. When I came to the U.S. Senate in 2011, I actually sponsored legislation, which we passed, setting up six test sites across the country and the very first test site was the Northern Plains test site in Grand Forks at UND. That built on all of the work that we had done with our Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aerial Systems. And this has turned into partnering with leading aerospace companies. And now, Grand Sky is not just unmanned aviation—now we're in the space mission, with the low-earth orbit satellite communication

mission. And we're also in hypersonics, with Sky Range and the Range Hawk mission. It's all intertwined between not only the military but also top aerospace companies and the University of North Dakota.

hangar—every single one of them had been out to space and back 10 times—that's 100 trips where those rockets took off from Cape Canaveral, did a mission in space, came back and landed!

We've been at that now for 17 years; this is not an overnight success.

Our ability for space travel is here—our limitation is how do you sustain men and women out there for the length of time it takes to get to their destination and back? How do you sustain them in terms of food and water?

We're bringing that same approach to Grand Farm and Autonomous Nation. Regardless of the technology surrounding autonomous farming, people will always be involved in the equation. What Grand Farm really captures is the idea of leading the world in precision agriculture and driving into the future in the same way we're leading the world in unmanned aviation. Autonomous Nation is about bringing people together—not only in getting ideas from them on the future of precision agriculture—but also using it to create partners. This year, we'll be talking about the incredible progress that we've made with Grand Farm. The whole concept is to show how North Dakota will continue to be a leader and become even more of a leader in precision agriculture. Ultimately, I think what you're going to see is agriculture in space married with the things that we are doing at Grand Sky and Grand Farm. We now have the ability to do space travel. I toured the SpaceX hangar in Cape Canaveral, FL, and they had 10 Falcon Nine rockets in that

Between Grand Sky Tech Park, NDSU and UND and their space programs, North Dakota is in a position of leadership. Quite literally, we don't even know where this is all going to go—but it's very exciting. In terms of ag in space, nobody's better positioned to just grab this thing and run with it. Literally, the sky's the limit.

The "Future" Farmers When you look at young people and where they're looking to go to school, I think because of these things we're developing in tandem with NDSU and UND, they're gonna go, "Hey, I want to go to North Dakota because I want to be where some of this exciting stuff is developing." So it's not just the education—it's them being involved in the technology, the jobs, the economy and the opportunities of the future.

Our ability for space travel is here" FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM


Photo Provided by Emerging Prairie

How can farmers support this ongoing mission in autonomy? What are some of those practical applications? The reality is that they're already a part of it and they're just going to continue to be a bigger part of it because they are using precision agriculture. It involves every aspect of their operation; whether it's the technology of the equipment they use, their applications or fertilizers, developing the qualities of their herd if they're a cattle rancher, the GPS systems they use, their access to the supply chain or whether it's something as simple bringing young people into this enterprise.

coal, but we're also leading the way forward with carbon capture and those kinds of technologies. Red Trail Ethanol Plant in Richardton, ND, for example, is the first state-permitted biofuels plant in the nation that captures the co2 that they produce when they convert corn to transportation fuel. They're selling low-carbon fuel to the west coast and getting a premium for it. So our farmers here in North Dakota deliver their corn to the plant and in Richardton instead of having to pay a big amount of money to send it off to the coasts or overseas. So they eliminate the basis, which means they get a better price for their corn and they run the plant. If you're out there as a farmer, that's how you control your destiny, making a lot better return than just growing your crop and selling it the traditional way. That's just one example of how we're marrying up ag and energy in a way that really is ahead of the rest of the country.

What are you doing personally in continuing to make North Dakota a leader in autonomy, and how can farmers support your efforts? What is holding other states back? North Dakota is an ag powerhouse; nobody does farming and ranching better than ours. But we're not just an ag powerhouse, we're an energy powerhouse, and that's something that I've worked on since my time as governor starting the Empower North Dakota Energy Policy in 2000.

In the ag world, North Dakota is blessed with great farmland and ranch land—you need that. In terms of energy, we have the resources of coal, oil, gas, some hydro and we also have biofuels because we have the ag base.

Obviously, North Dakota is huge in oil, gas and

We have worked very hard over the last 20-



plus years to create that environment where you get the investment, you encourage the innovation and you help it along. That means working with our farmers and our energy industry to develop these concepts and marry them together, creating these synergies that we're talking about. When it comes to ag and energy, that's our thing. And I don't think anybody does it better than we do.

What can farmers and business owners do to support this mission? Participate, and also, continue what you’re doing with Future Farmer Magazine. It’s the same thing we're trying to do with Autonomous Nation and Grand Farm—and that's bringing all of these things together. Putting the information out about what we're trying to do brings farmers and ranchers into the equation. And the more of them that we can marry up with these concepts with Grand Farm, with NDSU and with this link we're trying to create with UND, we can get them excited, get them involved and try to show them why there's a real tangible benefit there for them.

What policies are you currently focused on that will help drive autonomous farming into the next stage? My team works on good farm policy 365 days a year, every single day. That's our first priority because North Dakota is an ag powerhouse. Many people live in the cities and don't come from the farm anymore like they did many years ago. But something very important to remember is that good farm policy benefits every single American every single day, because Americans have the highest quality, lowest cost food supply in the world, and precision ag is an important part of that future.

An essential part of growing the UAS industry over the last several years has come from developing relationships with the aviation industry. What are you and the state of North Dakota doing to build those relationships? I’ve worked since my time as governor to build North Dakota into a leader in unmanned aviation, starting with the UAS Center of Excellence we created at the University of North Dakota. Following that, we worked to establish Grand Sky, a first-of-its-kind UAS business and technology park and secured Northrop Grumman and General Atomics as its anchor tenants. At the same time, we authored and secured passage of legislation to create the UAS test site program, which has provided North Dakota with unique capabilities to support the testing and development of UAS technology. I continue working to build upon these efforts, attracting more investment and growth in our state’s unmanned aviation industry.

good farm policy benefits every single American every single day

MEET THE SPEAKER Q&A with NDDOT CEO Bill Panos Why you are going to be speaking at Autonomous Nation? I’ll be speaking at Autonomous Nation on how the NDDOT is leading several intelligent transportation initiatives.

For those that cannot attend, could you share the message you'll be sharing at Autonomous Nation? What are the main takeaways you want attendees to remember? We’ll summarize our program and describe a few projects currently underway. The main takeaways are: • Autonomous technologies are being transferred from various industries to the transportation space. This process is not new, but the benefits are unique • Autonomous technologies are a result of fully deployed “connecting” technologies, integrated information management systems and collaboration • That we need the engagement of the state legislature and private companies (agriculture, energy, etc.) to make this work in North Dakota

What are some things going on behind the scenes that you can share that growers and the future autonomous industry can be excited about? The advancement of computing power, sensor technologies, algorithms and the rise of connecting technologies will advance these initiatives forward.



What are three reasons why now is the right time to pursue autonomy in North Dakota, and why NDDOT is helping lead the way? 1. 2. 3.

There is an unprecedented increase in fatalities on our nation’s highways The development and application of autonomous technology is at a tipping point The funding to continue to build and rebuild infrastructure is unsustainable

What are a few key things NDDOT is doing right now to help policymakers in North Dakota in driving the state to full autonomy? • • • •

Funding projects and collaborating with other state agencies, universities and non-profit organizations to demonstrate the value of autonomous systems. Increasing support of university research and applied technology development. Creating a transportation technology (autonomy) corridor along I-29 from Grand Forks to Fargo. Working with private companies to use autonomous technology for freight movement.

NDDOT demonstrated its first autonomous impact protection vehicle in 2020. What has that led to today and what else is NDDOT focused on to reduce fatalities in work zones? We are still evaluating the operational integrity and design of autonomous attenuators. The future of autonomous systems needs to be deployed in a normalized manner within the transportation operating space. • The NDDOT is evaluating the expansion of automated attenuator use for worker protection. • The NDDOT is evaluating the development and deployment of autonomous mowing systems to meet that operational need. • The NDDOT, along with the federal DOT, is planning the deployment of a transportation management system.

What are four things that the autonomy industry is lacking that NDDOT is helping provide and why are they important?





A process of field deployment within DOTs

Real-world data on system performance, conditional resiliency, and use-costs

State and federal guidance on deployment rules and regulations, including insurance industry normalization toward autonomous systems

Common terms and understanding of autonomous system development and deployment



Photo Provided by Autonomy Institute

MEET THE SPEAKER Q&A with autonomy institute chairman jeff decoux

What is Autonomy Institute and why will you be presenting at Autonomous Nation? The Autonomy Institute is a nonprofit organization accelerating the “Path to Commerce” for intelligent infrastructure and autonomous systems. This includes Digital Infrastructure, Autonomy and AI at the edge. It is a government, industry, academia and public alliance to create the policies, markets, jobs and community benefits of autonomy, starting with the Intelligent and Autonomous Infrastructure that is the equivalent of the Eisenhower Interstate Highways. There is a tsunami of technology coming to cities and it needs leadership to assure it meets community needs. That’s where Public-Private Partnership (P3) comes in to deploy Public Infrastructure Network Nodes (PINN). The PINN will be as critical to a city as roads, power, telecommunications and water infrastructure.

Big transformational programs are driven by new infrastructure: •

Freight Trains - required railways, telegraph and depots.



• • • •

Aviation­—required control towers, communications, radars, GPS and antennas. Interstate Commerce—required roads, highways, bridges and interchanges. Internet—required network access points, data centers and fiber. Industry 4.0—requires Intelligent Infrastructure, data exchanges and digital twins.

We look to support regions and states that are leading with the adoption of Industry 4.0 solutions like autonomy. North Dakota has shown pioneering leadership for automated and autonomous systems. The Governor, senators, state leadership not only supported legislation, but backed it up with funding.

For those that cannot attend, could you share the message you'll be sharing at Autonomous Nation? I would use the Autonomous Nation quote: “Autonomy is no longer a dream, but a reality." Autonomous Nation Conference's mission is to be a catalyst and converge, government employees, industry leaders, and

entrepreneurs to set North Dakota as the most cutting-edge, autonomous-friendly region in the world.

What are some things going on behind the scenes that you can share that growers and the future autonomous industry can be excited about? Automation and Autonomy are about freeing us from dull, dirty, dangerous jobs. It is vital that our nation increases our productivity and exports. It is also critical to do this by empowering the individual and family unit which is a key foundation for the agriculture industry in North Dakota. In the past, we had to consolidate and build commercial operations to increase production. Now we can take automated and autonomous systems out of the factories and integrate them into society at the same time of increasing production output.

Automation and Autonomy are about freeing us from dull, dirty, dangerous jobs." Why is now is the right time to pursue autonomy in North Dakota? This is a national challenge. It took Edison seven years to convince the nation of the value of electricity, and Eisenhower five years the value of Interstate Highways. Intelligent infrastructure will be the foundation of the 21st century and will be the brains of our economy. Leadership from the Federal agencies will accelerate our efforts to make it a national program, yet private infrastructure dollars will underwrite using Public-Private Partnerships.



What are four things that the autonomy industry is lacking that you are helping provide and why are they important? TOP PRIORITIES: 1. Leadership: It is a Whole of Nation Program and we need to set a NORTHSTAR! 2. Capital: Establish “Public<>Private” Partnerships to leverage private capital. 3. Infrastructure: Intelligent infrastructure is the foundation for Industry 4.0—autonomy. 4. ARPA-X: regional research and development with 24/7/365 operations. Our nation has no Northstar or alignment of any kind. We have to focus on our nation's infrastructure first in a rapid and expansive way. We cannot defend democracy if we cannot even take care of our own country. Our national productivity is dependent on our ability to deploy automated and autonomous systems outside the factory; we have no chance to compete on manpower alone. China is looking to incorporate smart roads into the China Belt and Road Initiative from 2013. This was launched "AFTER" China dominated the infrastructure buildout for decades in their own country. Now they have the systems, technology, talent and funds to take over the world.

For those not familiar with the NATIONAL INTELLIGENT INFRASTRUCTURE COMMERCE ACT 2023, what are the key takeaways from it and why is it important for policymakers and growers in North Dakota? The INTELLIGENT INFRASTRUCTURE ACT addresses the key challenges of our lifetime. Providing advanced city services, resilient and carbonfree economies, closing the technology divide, enabling autonomous systems, and most important; securing data for people, cities, and governments. National sovereignty and global productivity will go to the nation that deploys the INTELLIGENT INFRASTRUCTURE enabling Industry 4.0. INTELLIGENT INFRASTRUCTURE is the equivalent of the interstate highways of the 1960s (adding GPS and Internet) and will be the brains of our economy. INTELLIGENT INFRASTRUCTURE will advance vision zero, eliminate the digital divide, stimulate economic expansion, support national security and create millions of jobs.

What role does North Dakota play in “Industry 4.0”? Past national efforts impacted specific regions more than others. i.e. Atomic Race—New York, New Mexico, Tennessee. Space—Florida, Texas. Autonomy will impact the entire nation but just like the Interstate Highways it will depend on the early leadership of the states, i.e. Route 66.

History of Autonomous Development Since Frank W. Andrew first developed his personal "self-driving" tractor in 1940, autonomy in agriculture has been an exciting possibility at the forefront of growers' and engineers' minds. Several tried and failed attempts have been made over the decades, but it wasn't until the mid-1990s when John Deere partnered with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that autonomous farming truly became a possibility. NASA's JPL created the first global tracking system for GPS satellites to create real-time data tracking for farming.

Collins Aerospace. This reignited the flame for autonomous agriculture on the ground, bringing Grand Farm, which supports the race to full autonomy by connecting industry leaders, policymakers and growers through events like Autonomous Nation.

Meanwhile, John Deere was also working on another self-guidance GPS tracking system called NavCom. By 2003, NavCom's tracking precision was down to within a single inch. However, one major downfall was an unreliable signal. John Deere set out to fix this by utilizing NASA's global network to strengthen its StarFire GPS systems.

The machine combines Deere's 8R tractor, TruSet-enabled chisel plow, GPS guidance system, and new advanced technologies.

Fast forward to the 2015, and the race to autonomy took to the sky with Grand Sky—a partnership between the United States Air Force Base of Grand Forks and Grand Sky Development. Grand Sky became the nation's first commercial UAS business and aviation park for research, testing and development. Today, nearly all UAS companies are based in North Dakota, including Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and



John Deere hasn't been quiet either—they've been building the Megatron of autonomous machinery, introducing the fully-autonomous 8R at CES earlier in 2022.

Some of the other features include: • • • •

Six pairs of stereo cameras 360-degree obstacle detection and the calculation of distance Deep neural network lightning-fast image processing for controls and obstacle detection Continual geofencing accuracy within an inch

Photos Provided by Grand Farm

History of Autonomous Nation Autonomous Nation was born out of a conference called Drone Focus, which was first launched in 2015 in collaboration with Senator John Hoeven and the Northern Plains Test Site as well as some of other key partners in the UAS space in North Dakota. There's a long-standing history on why North Dakota has become a leader when it comes to aerial autonomy. Drone Focus proved to be a huge success, bringing in organizations like the FCC, FAA, USDOT and more, all thanks to Senator Hoeven's involvement in leading the chase. Since then, we've proven that North Dakota is a leader in UAS space.

What's Next for Autonomous Nation? So what's the next evolution of that? It's all-around autonomy. The conference is meant to connect the autonomous industry with policymakers to make our region the most autonomous-friendly in the country. It's simple: what we've done in the air, we can also bring down onto the ground. This is where Grand Farm comes in. Agriculture has been a leader when it comes to autonomy for decades and it's only continuing to progress. The next driving factor for autonomy in the future is the supply chain side things. So much of agriculture is just about getting food from one spot to another. Additionally, it's no secret that there's a major labor shortage when it comes to the ag world, especially with trucking and shipping. Autonomy brings solutions to this issue amongst a host of many other topics. Lastly, this isn't just a North Dakota story; this is nationwide story. Senator Hoeven and the state of North Dakota has done a great job in leading the charge when it comes to UAS space and autonomy. However, this can't be a statewide play—it has to be a regional play. To learn more, visit grandfarm.com/autonomous-nation




As we enter the dog days of summer, there is a lot to be excited about in the world of agtech. In each issue of Future Farmer, Emerging Prairie offers up insight into what's new and notable at the cross-section of start-ups and agriculture. This month, we learn more about the Grand Farm's new Grower Advisory Board, the future Innovation Facility and so much more! 48




60 50

Unleashing the Power of Genomics for the Better



Grand Farm Announces Grower Advisory Board

60 KWS Participates in Grand Farm Visionary

54 Grand Farm Purchases Land Near

Casselton for Future Innovation Facility


Local, Fresh, and Sustainable Produce in the FM Area

Helping Immigrants Establish Their Own Farm

Agricultural Initiative


Kratos Defense, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative Partner to Deploy Self-Driving Trucks to Address Workforce Challenges and Improve the Supply Chain

64 The Impact of Soil and Crop Health in Agriculture



Unleashing the Power of Genomics for the Better By Tresa Wickenheiser

Photo provided by Emerging Prairie

About Jérôme Jérôme Boissonneault-Laroche is co-founder and Vice President of Business Development at AYOS Diagnostic. Jérôme grew up in a small town in the province of Québec, Canada. The best business school for him was playing football in high school and college. He is passionate about technology, agriculture, and the outdoors.



About AYOS Diagnostic AYOS gives growers, breeders, crop advisors, seed suppliers and research programs, access to the most advanced technologies. This helps them select “the genetic that fits the right environment.” “By unleashing the power of genomics for the agricultural industry, our mission is to allow precise and sustainable management of plant diseases, for a healthy soil, better yields and ultimately, healthier foods.” As Jérôme reflects on both the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial journey, he states, “My highest point was to be able to successfully close our pre-commercialization funding round in early 2022.” Jérôme explains that it can be lonely being an entrepreneur.

When asked how the community can support Jérôme and AYOS Diagnostic, Jérôme explains that they are looking for potential partners in the United States “to accelerate the commercialisation of our genomic tool to help growers with disease management.” Readers can learn more about Jérôme and AYOS Diagnostic by visiting their Website (ayostechnologies.com/en/home), Facebook (/ ayostechnologies), Twitter (@ayostechno) and LinkedIn.




QUINN RENFANDT Quinn is a grower from Ward County, ND. On his farm, Quinn grows a variety of specialty crops. He is a member of numerous agriculture-related organizations. Some of the associations include Red River Harvest Cooperative, USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program, North Dakota Forest Service, and more. Quinn hopes to “begin developing solutions that make economic and practical sense for the people who need it most.”

By Tresa Wickenheiser

On June 30th, 2022, Grand Farm announced the members of its new Grower Advisory Board at the Cultivate Conference, in Fargo, ND. The Grower Advisory Board consists of innovative growers who provide advice, critical feedback, and recommendations to the Grand Farm team on a range of issues. These issues pertain to technology and the environment. They are of importance to agriculture and rural communities.

VANESSA KUMMER Vanessa is a grower from Richland County, ND. On her farm, Vanessa grows corn, sugar beets, soybeans, and wheat. She is past chair of United Soybean Board and of North Dakota Soybean Growers, Farm Journal Foundation Farmer Leaders. Vanessa is interested in “continuing to learn with and from others about ag.”

SARAH LOVAS RYAN OLSON Ryan is a grower from Norman County, MN. On his farm, Ryan grows sugar beets, wheat, soybeans, and edible beans. He is interested in autonomous equipment and new projects in the world of AgTech.



Sarah is a grower from Traill County, ND. On her farm, she grows various crops, such as wheat, corn, barley, soybeans, and sunflowers. She is involved in SBARE, ND Certified Crop Advisors, ND Crop Consultants Association, Traill County Soil Conservation. Sara is looking to learn about new agriculture technologies. She is also looking to gain industry collaborations and adopt new technologies.



Adam is a grower from Richland County, ND. On his farm, Adam grows corn and soybeans. He is a Kindred FFA advisory board and alumni, Certified Crop Advisor. Adam is looking to advise Grand Farm in the best way possible. He wants to learn and implement new ideas for his own farm as well as connect with other leaders in the agriculture industry.

Shelby is a grower from Ransom County, ND. On her farm, Shelby grows corn and soybeans. She also raises livestock. Shelby is a member of the ND CattleWomen’s Association and NDFB. She is looking to get a first-hand view of the products being used in the industry and wants to provide useful feedback.



Kyle is a grower from Dickey County, ND. On his farm, Kyle grows corn, soybeans, and wheat. Kyle is a past member of Dickey County Water Resource board, as well as former chairman of Dickey County FSA board and current CEO of Rentease. He is looking forward to seeing where the agriculture industry is headed and is looking to create relationships.

Kathi is a grower from Cass County, ND. On her farm, Kathi grows soybeans, corn, and alfalfa. Kathi runs a seed dealership; she is involved with Bayer, Peterson Farm Seeds, Agassiz Seed and Supply, Wilbur Ellis and Pivot Bio and other companies. Kathi is looking to learn more about new technologies that are “farmer friendly” and cost effective.



Verna is a grower from Clay County, MN. On her farm, Verna grows various vegetables and specialty crops. Not only does Verna grow crops, but she also raises livestock. Verna is a member of multiple associations, which includes the Biodynamic Demeter Alliance, MN Farmers Union,Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society, Land Stewardship Project, and MN Sustainable Farming Association. She also markets CSA memberships online through the Red River Harvest Cooperative and vegetables to area restaurants. Verna is looking to “advance technology that supports healthy living for the farmers and sustainability and health for livestock, crops and soil.”

David is a grower from Grand Forks County, ND. On his farm, Davis grows edible dry beans, sugar beets, and spring wheat. David is a Member of American Crystal Sugar Co-op, Vice President of GF County Farmers Union Board, Owner of AcrePro Farm Agency. David is looking to contribute to the advancement of agriculture.



Grand Farm Purchases Land Near Casselton for Future Innovation Facility By Matt Wendel

Emerging Prairie Founder Greg Tehven signing paperwork to officially purchase the land which will serve as the home for the Innovation Facility.

Photo provided by Emerging Prairie




argo, ND - On June 29th, Grand Farm announced the purchase of a parcel of land near Casselton, North Dakota, intended as the future site of its Innovation Facility. In May, Grand Farm revealed it had selected the Casselton community as the home of its Innovation Facility along with the intention to purchase the land. The property is located on the southwest corner of exit 328 off Interstate 94, about two miles west of Casselton. Since its launch in 2019, Grand Farm has been facilitating and deploying AgTech projects on donated acreage south of Fargo, ND. With continual expansion of projects and research, Grand Farm determined that constructing an Innovation Facility on their own acreage would best allow them to continue their positive impact in agriculture technology innovation.

With this purchase we are another step closer to Grand Farm’s Innovation Facility,” said Brian Carroll, Director of Grand Farm. “We are excited to continue working with our great partners in Casselton and the region to enable technology to feed the world.” Grand Farm’s Innovation Facility will be intentionally designed to be a continually adapting,

demonstration and innovation space that will stay at the forefront of agriculture technology innovation. It will provide expanded acreage for the deployment of additional AgTech projects, rapid prototyping capabilities and increased research capacity. In February, the North Dakota Department of Commerce announced it had selected Grand Farm as a recipient of the department’s Autonomous Agriculture Technology Matching Grant. The $10 million grant was created with funding from the 67th Legislative Assembly to encourage and support the advancement of autonomous farming technology by awarding a 1:1 match of funding for the deployment of an innovation facility, project management for complex North Dakota-based and global autonomous agricultural concepts and workforce initiatives to upskill the autonomous agriculture workforce with qualified professionals to ensure advanced farming techniques. Grand Farm directly engages the community, bringing together local stakeholders with organizations from around the world to collaborate on innovations solving some of the world’s largest challenges in AgTech. Grand Farm was developed to be additive to existing infrastructure, programs and state/federal investments. Its independent, neutral-platform allows for direct and rapid engagement with growers, industry, researchers and government. This gaps-based approach maximizes investment into programs, facilities and infrastructure.




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Seed & Spore was founded in November of 2020. Their current facility is located in South Fargo. Currently, Seed & Spore serves Bernbaums, Rustica, Luna and Maxwells. They also deliver directly to home cooks in the Fargo-Moorhead area. “Seed & Spore provides fresh, local and sustainable produce year-round focusing on gourmet mushrooms and microgreens.” With every business comes challenges. Jared states that one of the biggest challenges he’s faced in his entrepreneurial journey is, “a hurdle I put into place. We wanted to start an ethical company who pays their employees a living wage and is well taken care of. As a new business, my revenue isn’t at the point where I can justify hiring help quite yet.” As Jared reflects on his successes, he states, “My first flush of mushrooms is near the top of the list. I jumped into

this venture not knowing a single fact about mushroom cultivation.” Jared explains that he will never get tired of dropping off produce at a patrons home. The excitement is what drives Jared’s passion even further. “I can be having a hard day but seeing the joy, talking about food, connecting with the community… it reminds me of why I’m doing this and gives me fuel to keep going.” When asked how the community can support Jared and Seed & Spore, he states, “As of now, just tell your friends and maybe place an order with us. I am excited to (eventually) have the time for more community outreach. There’s so much more fungi can do for us than just food!” Readers can learn more about Seed & Spore by visiting their Website (seedspore.co), Facebook (@seedspore.co) and Instagram (@seedspore.co).



Helping Immigrants Establish Their Own Farm By Tresa Wickenheiser 58


About Verna Verna Kragnes is founder of New Roots Farm Incubator Cooperative. She is also a Farmer at Prairie Rose Farm, and Research & Innovation Director at Prairie Rose Agricultural Institute for Research, Innovation & Education. Verna grew up on a farm near Moorhead, MN, and received her bachelor’s degree from NDSU. She then moved to Inver Grove Heights, MN, where she worked as a teacher and secondary school administrator. After moving to Philadelphia, PA, for a couple of years, Verna and her husband, Rick, moved back to the Twin Cities. There, they started, “one of the first two CSA farms to market to the Twin Cities, which had an associated

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non-profit, Philadelphia Community Farm.” Verna and Rick moved back to Moorhead in 2014. Verna stated, “My involvement here has included organizational consulting, serving as the Executive Director of Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society for two years, and since 2015 serving as an organizing and board member for the New Roots Farm Incubator Cooperative which provides access to land, technical support, and shared resources for disadvantaged farmers seeking to launch a small farm enterprise.” Verna has always had a passion for helping others.

About New Roots Farm Incubator Cooperative New Roots Farm Incubator Cooperative serves local immigrants who desire to establish their own farm enterprises/ businesses. Their mission includes, “Uniting compassionate hearts and skills from many cultures for renewal of health, agriculture and community.” Verna participated in the Minnesota Futurists Society subcommittee on education for a couple of years. While she was attending Graduate School at the University of Minnesota, she “made a commitment to a life building educational models and new organizational forms that would be helpful when we reached the point we are in at this time.”

Incubator Cooperative, she says, “Both donations and investment funding are needed to complete planned land acquisition, existing building renovation and establish additional training and agricultural production/ research facilities. We envision multiple moveable high tunnels and a deep winter greenhouse on a farm that demonstrates an integration of small scale vegetables and animal production systems. Readers can learn more about Verna and New Roots Farm Incubator Cooperative by visiting their Website, newrootscooperativefarm.com and Facebook.

Verna states, “Living a life that is building new models and forging new dynamics in relationships has its ups and downs, but looking back, I can feel happy with how my experiences all seem to fit together in a coherent pattern leading to this point in my life.” When asked how the community can support Verna and New Roots Farm



KWS Participates in Grand Farm Visionary Agricultural Initiative


The KWS group, with headquarters in Einbeck, Germany, announced participation in the Grand Farm Education and Research Initiative. The KWS Digital Innovation Accelerator (DIA) team has committed cultivation of five acres of experimental sugarbeets on Grand Farm to identify and develop sustainable farming practices benefitting sugarbeet, and in the future, all row crop growers. The Grand Farm initiative is designed to inspire collaboration among businesses, organizations and researchers to facilitate agriculture technology innovation.

On Thursday, June 30, Duane Bernhardson, Business Development Manager, KWS, spoke at Grand Farm’s Cultivate Conference on the topic of innovation at KWS. “As KWS becomes more visible and well known, it continues to make a significant investment in global farmers and agricultural technology. Through the KWS commitment to innovation, resulting in the cultivation of new precision ag tools, KWS is at the forefront of leadingedge technologies that will benefit the global farming community helping to secure food and feed for the future.”

“All of us at DIA are pleased to be working with the Grand Farm on new agtech and precision farming initiatives,” Mike Boyher, manager of digital innovation at KWS, said. “Participation with Grand Farm supports DIAs mission to develop innovative, ground-breaking, farming tools and methods that improve the lives of our global farmers. Our objective is to ‘break’ current farming ecosystems to generate innovative ideas and learn from the results. Fields may not look pretty, yet those that are disease and pest infested will offer us the greatest insight as we further develop new breeding solutions and technologies that benefit our farmers. Working with the Grand Farm team supports this mission and really allows us to try KWS developed, innovative tools in a safe, secure environment.”

The KWS DIA group has numerous projects underway that are at the forefront of precision farming. Additionally, the DIA team has focused on Smart Field Research, Automated & Connected Farm, Farmer of the Future, Seed to Table and Adapting to Climate Change. These focus areas have led the team to work in artificial intelligence, IoT, analytics, robotics, blockchain and aerial imagery. KWS is committed to these initiatives through continued financial support to this team of progressive, agriculturally focused professionals.



For more information, visit www.kws.com or follow them on Twitter®: @KWS_Group

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About KWS KWS is one of the world’s leading plant breeding companies with more than 6,000 employees in 70 countries. A company with a tradition of family ownership, KWS has operated independently for more than 160 years. KWS uses leadingedge plant breeding methods to increase farmers’ yields and to improve resistance to diseases, pests, and abiotic stress. To that end, the company invests approximately 15% of turnover in research and development.



Kratos Defense, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative Partner to Deploy Self-Driving Trucks to Address Workforce Challenges and Improve the Supply Chain Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. (Nasdaq: KTOS), a leading national security solutions provider, announced that it has teamed with the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative (MDFC) to launch self-driving trucks, easing the truck driver shortage burden using Kratos Autonomous Systems to ensure integrity of the agriculture supply chain as a critical national security concern. Kratos Unmanned Systems’ core competency is affordable, disruptive, unmanned systems-related technology and products for aerial drones, surface vessels, groundbased vehicles and related command, control, autonomy and artificial intelligence. The one of grower Farm, a agriculture in North Minnexpertise. Follower”



Collaboration between Kratos and MDFC, America’s largest sugarbeet shareholder/ cooperatives, was fostered by Grand non-profit group focused on facilitating technology innovation headquartered Dakota and combines Kratos’ innovative unmanned system technologies, with Dak’s agriculture and transportation The retrofitted solution adapts leader/ truck platooning for hauling harvested sugarbeets between piling stations and the granulated sugar processing plant in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

Maynard Factor, VP of Business Development for the Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, said, “We are excited to collaborate with Minn-Dak to deploy driverless trucks within their sugarbeet harvest operations. Kratos develops and fields transformative, affordable systems, platforms and products for national security, and ensuring the agriculture supply chain using driverless technology directly aligns with our core company objectives. Our focus here is on the niche, short-haul trucking routes where Kratos’ technology is available today that can solve driver shortage issues impacting agriculture hauling capacity and, therefore, the supply chain. Sugarbeet growers have been early adopters of emerging agriculture technologies, implementing now-commonplace innovations such as transitioning from rail to trucks and using GPS-guided farm equipment. We see driverless technology as a similar innovation for enhancing critical farm-related operations. Additionally, as the world advances and unmanned vehicle systems continue to solve a multitude of workforce cost and safety challenges, we are committed to being a significant solution provider across the spectrum of this large and growing market area.” Self-driving truck deployments can augment the existing workforce as a tool for either increasing haul capacity to keep up with growing demand or maintaining existing haul capacity when qualified drivers are unavailable. Significant effort, cost and planning is required to ensure haul capacity meets national harvest quotas. Over 50,000 trucks a day can be deployed during peak sugarbeet harvesting season, and the Kratos Leader/ Follower platoon is an enabling technology that the agriculture industry can now use for optimizing the allocation of available labor to bolster the supply chain. Mike Metzger, Minn-Dak Farmers Co-Op VP of Agriculture, said, “Minn-Dak is beyond excited to be partnering with Kratos Defense as we both take the next step towards implementing Kratos’ Leader/Follower technology. Our Cooperative’s goal is to take this technology to the next level by incorporating it into our commercial truck fleet that brings the sugarbeets from receiving stations to our factory for processing. It’s no secret that there is a gross shortage of commercially licensed truck drivers, especially in rural areas like ours. The deployment of driverless vehicle technology will undoubtedly help alleviate these labor shortages and improve the overall safety and efficiency of our fleet.” Retrofitting driverless technology is an ideal solution for organizations like Minn-Dak that already have an existing fleet and logistics operations. It enables them to use their harvest trucks without having to invest in brand new “purpose-built” robotic vehicles. Additionally, the Kratos Leader/Follower platoon offers several advantages to logistics managers who can now pair available truck drivers with driverless trucks to enhance hauling productivity. The paired trucks offer greater efficiency and fuel savings while reducing recruitment costs and overall stress on the drivers, recruiters, and farmers by solving the driver shortage challenge. Additionally, the integration of technology into the agriculture supply chain offers strategic workforce development opportunities.

About Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:KTOS) develops and fields transformative, affordable technology, platforms and systems for United States National Security related customers, allies and commercial enterprises. Kratos is changing the way breakthrough technology for these industries are rapidly brought to market through proven commercial and venture capital backed approaches, including proactive research and streamlined development processes. At Kratos, affordability is a technology, and we specialize in unmanned systems, satellite communications, cyber security/warfare, microwave electronics, missile defense, hypersonic systems, training, combat systems and next generation turbo jet and turbo fan engine development. For more information, please visit KratosDefense.com.

About Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative (MDFC or Minn-Dak) was the nation’s first farmer-owned sugarbeet cooperative and is headquartered in Wahpeton, a city in the southeast corner of North Dakota, in the heart of the Red River Valley. The Cooperative is owned by approximately 500 Shareholders/ Growers who collectively grow just over 100,000 acres of sugarbeets and is part of the domestic sweetener industry. Minn-Dak has proudly been in business since 1972 and processes its sugarbeets into sugar as well as products the likes of molasses and beet pulp pellets (used in animal feed). Minn-Dak's products are then marketed through agents worldwide. Major customers include industrial users, including confectioners, breakfast-cereal manufacturers, and bakeries. For more information, please visit www.mdf.coop.

Notice Regarding ForwardLooking Statements

Certain statements in this press release may constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are made on the basis of the current beliefs, expectations and assumptions of the management of Kratos and are subject to significant risks and uncertainty. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any such forward-looking statements. All such forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and Kratos undertakes no obligation to update or revise these statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Although Kratos believes that the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, these statements involve many risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from what may be expressed or implied in these forwardlooking statements. For a further discussion of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ from those expressed in these forward-looking statements, as well as risks relating to the business of Kratos in general, see the risk disclosures in the Annual Report on Form 10-K of Kratos for the year ended December 26, 2021, and in subsequent reports on Forms 10-Q and 8-K and other filings made with the SEC by Kratos. FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM




of Soil and Crop Health in Agriculture

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Healthy soil and crop practices are the lifeblood of not only the agriculture industry but how we will feed 10 billion people by 2050. As farmers face more environmental, regulatory, and consumer demands, managing for soil health to work with the land – not against it—and to reduce erosion, maximize water usage, improve nutrient cycling, and save money on inputs is more important than ever. While farmers are often under a lot of scrutiny for agricultural practices, the reality is that every farmer needs to maintain healthy soils for the good of their own livelihood. At its recent Innovation Series, Grand Farm explored the latest in new fertilizers, practices, and technologies, and explored the work that’s happening to maintain strong soils and crops. Grand Farm co-hosted the event with North Dakota State University and was co-hosted by Frank Casey, Director, School of Natural Resource Sciences, NDSU. Some of the speakers included…

The Mosaic Company is the world’s leading integrated producer of concentrated phosphate and potash—two of the three most important nutrients in agriculture. They employ more than 13,000 people in six countries to serve farmers all over the world. The people of Mosaic work with the purpose to maximize efficiencies and minimize our environmental footprint. They strive to be a thoughtful and engaged neighbor, using our financial resources, expertise and innovative spirit to commit to good corporate citizenship.

Agveris works with progressive growers in ND, SD, MN and WI to help balance soils, maximize fertilizer efficiency and deliver higher profits. Computer-generated fertility recommendations are a great place to start, but because of numerous variables in the soil, they are inadequate for the progressive grower. Through the use of complete and accurate soil tests, field-tested recalibrated algorithms and other soil chemistry intricacies, they can deliver a fertility package that will bring the grower to the next level. By doing this, they are able to lower weed, insect and disease pressure, allow for better water utilization, more efficient nutrient uptake and availability, which gives the growers more flexibility of picking hybrids and varieties.

Jim and Darcy started in the custom farming industry in 2007, and Erickson Custom Operations was born. They originally helped farmers with planting, harvesting, and other types of field work. In 2014, ECO officially became an independent product dealer. Primarily selling fertilizers (dry and liquid) in the upper Midwest, some former employees were met and ECO was introduced to Calcine products. A year later they were introduced to Aqua Yield products and started selling in the tristate area. ECO officially started with Calcine in 2015.

Pivot Bio was born out of an ambition to replace synthetic nitrogen fertilizer with a more sustainable and safer tool for farmers. Co-founders Karsten Temme and Alvin Tamsir began their work as lab partners during graduate school and focused on creating a dependable and safer way to fertilize cereal crops. Supported by early grants from the Gates Foundation in 2011 and driven by a relentless commitment to help make farming more productive and sustainable, Karsten and Alvin built a scalable proprietary tech platform that enables microbes to reliably produce nitrogen for cereal crops - a discovery that has been chased by scientists for decades, and never available commercially until now. Pivot Bio microbes take nitrogen from the air and make it available for plants, replacing the need for synthetic nitrogen. After years of laboratory, greenhouse, and on-farm trials, Pivot Bio released its first commercial product for corn, Pivot Bio PROVEN®, to U.S. farmers in 2019. The product sold out within six weeks, demonstrating a strong demand from farmers for a new technology to improve their operations while minimizing their environmental footprint. Demand continues to grow, and the company expanded its product portfolio in 2020 with Pivot Bio RETURN® for wheat and introduced sorghum in 2021.