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Future Farmer SEPT/OCT 2021


The State of Agritech








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September/October 2021 Volume 2 Issue 5

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CONSIDERING A RETIREMENT AUCTION? HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT! s we move into the harvest season, a lot of farmers are asking, “Is this a good point to retire?” “Everybody’s situation is different. But if you’re considering retirement, a big question is how to sell your land and equipment, so it’s a good time to learn what goes into a retirement auction. Timing is important, and a lot of things favor a 2022 auction. Prices on late-model, lowhour machinery have been really strong,” said Steffes Representative Brad Olstad. “We start by listening, because how else can we understand the farmer’s needs? So, we set a time to visit -- preferably face to face. I want to know their story. Is this farmer first generation? Second? Even fourth? Who are the heirs, and where are they?” said Olstad. A presale evaluation for tax planning is a priority for many. Some cases may call for a charitable remainder trust to minimize the immediate tax bite while providing future income for charities. Together with the seller, we also decide if a live or timed online auction will best meet the seller’s needs. “By talking, and especially by listening, we get a good sense of the best way to meet the seller’s needs and expectations,” said Olstad. Once the seller is ready, we set a date, preferably two months out, setting all the pieces into motion. One thing we don’t do is ask for a check for advertising. “Many auctioneers ask the seller to pay for the advertising budget up front, but we never do,” said Olstad. 8


The Steffes Group team springs into action, with the first set of photos for an initial promotional sale bill, followed by a more comprehensive set of photos for the auction listings. “We use professional photographic equipment. And it’s noteworthy that we don’t manipulate images. If we get a bad photo, we go back and shoot it again. Bidders have to trust that they’re getting an accurate portrayal, including all angles, as well as hours, separator hours, condition of tires and other details,” he said. The process is similar for land. “We get a full history on the land, including productivity, soil type and quality, tiling, wildlife easements and any other factors that are pertinent to the bidder making an informed decision,” said Olstad. Our in-house designers create the sale bills and other advertising. After approval by the seller, we send them to a printer for printing and mailing and go live on SteffesGroup. com. We’re off and running! We keep the seller informed along the way as we move toward a successful auction. “The retirement sale is a really important decision affecting multiple generations. We’re committed to getting it right,” said Olstad. If you are considering a retirement auction in the future, contact a Steffes Group Sales Representative near you at to discuss your options!




Leading with Innovation and Care Black Gold Farms

What began in 1928 on 10 acres in North Dakota is now 25,000 acres of farmland across more than 10 states. It all started when founder A.E. (Hallie) Halverson, a Forest River, ND, banker, found himself the unlikely owner of a 10-acre seed potato plot. He farmed the land as a side business to his banking career, effectively launching the Red River Valley’s potato farming legacy. Halverson also established a family legacy that has inspired decades of growth for Black Gold Farms. His son Jack led the company through the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s when the company portfolio expanded to include Black Angus cattle and Kennebec potatoes for the potato chip trade. It was during Jack’s tenure that the company name was changed from Forest River Potato Co. to Black Gold Farms–“Black” symbolizing the fertile, deep ebony soil of the Red River Valley, as well as the color of the hide




of the registered Black Angus cattle raised on the farm; and “Gold” representing the golden skin color of the potatoes grown, as well as hope for the potential value of the newly named company. In the 1980s, Jack’s son Gregg took over business management, expanding into Missouri, exiting the cattle business and becoming a major supplier for Frito Lay. Under Gregg’s leadership the company has experienced explosive growth across the U.S. with a focus on potatoes for chips and red and sweet potatoes for the fresh market. In 2014, the torch was passed once more to the fourth generation of Halversons when Gregg’s son Eric was named chief executive officer. Gregg remains chairman of the board with his son John as chief operating officer and daughter Leah overseeing new business development and marketing through her own business called Ten Acre Marketing–an homage to Black Gold Farm’s original 10 acres. Today, Black Gold also manages its potatoes’ transportation using its own truck company, Horizon Logistics, making it a fully

vertically integrated farm. The trucks operate year-round transporting potatoes, but also helping neighboring farms transport produce when space is available. Black Gold Farms understands the importance of growing food responsibly. The company’s commitment to fertile soil, fresh air and clean water is backed up by their adoption of new-generation technology, such as fuel-efficient power units and fieldbased sensor technology. The company annually calibrates irrigation pivot output to ensure optimum application timing and conserve water, and the corporate office is LEED certified with LEED construction techniques used whenever possible in its new buildings. Black Gold Farms has a clear mission to be a premiere potato grower that focuses on excellence and being the best potato farmers they can be. They believe that getting the right potato on the right truck at the right time is what makes them and their customers successful, and when they

accomplish that, sustainability, community involvement and employee satisfaction follows. Beyond innovative approaches to environmental sustainability and marketing, Black Gold Farms also demonstrates a steadfast commitment to long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with employees, land partners, vendors and customers–just like Bremer. “Like Black Gold Farms, Bremer Bank builds authentic, enduring relationships. And that is why Bremer is much more than just the bank on the corner,” said Eric Halverson, CEO, Black Gold Farms. “Through the Bremer team’s genuine interest in learning our business, they’ve become a trusted resource and strategic partner.”



Drain Tile Project

Giving Back to Mother Nature: 14


Q&A with Heartland Trust's Brian Halverson & Farmer Ross Aigner How did you get connected with Heartland Trust, and what did the first steps look like in getting this drain tile project underway? Ross: Prior to meeting Brian, I knew the landowner who sought Heartland Trust to be the trustee of a trust. He brought Brian to my yard to ask me if I would conduct business with them–he wanted to retire. That was the first time I met Brian. It was just a quick, "hello, here's who we are." It has been quite a few years now, and Brian and I have learned a lot about each other, and we have mutual respect for each other. So it was easy for me to approach Brian, who seems young and progressive to understand that, "hey, I have an idea." Pollution and contamination are big problems we face in natural water sources. Walk us through the technical aspects and logistics of this drain tile project. I have an Agricultural Degree from NDSU, with an emphasis on Plant Pathology and Soil Science. I don't know what most people think of when they're trying to fall asleep at night, but I think of different ways to improve farming. One of the things I've been thinking about for years was to do some tiling on

ground that's not performing the way I would hope that it could–and that led to more thoughts of what can be done with the water? I can't just put my disposed waste waters directly into the system. If it's high in nitrates, is there something that we could do about that? What are some of the other benefits this drain tile project provides to Mother Nature? Ross: My goal with this whole project is to get the drain tile implemented, get it operating and then spend time collecting data. And what I know from my education is that nitrogen is a wild card; as far as nutrients go, it's expensive. It's necessary, yet it moves. If it moves away from our root zone, I wanted a way to capture it so it doesn't get into the ditch system. That leads to the Red River, which leads to the Fargo municipal drinking supply, or Grand Forks or Lake Winnipeg–where there's a big dead zone of algae bloom every year because of the runoff that can occur naturally or through drain tile. The other benefit would be that we've created a much larger wetland that could be not only the kidney for what we're doing, but the larger wetland is going to be a place for fungus, microorganisms, birds and animals. Anything could


Heartland Trust's Brian and farmer Ross partnered together to install a drain tile for healthier land, soil, and water systems

utilize this four-acre wetland we're creating. Who was involved in this project from start to finish? Brian: There was Ross and I as well as Ellingson Drain Tile, who did the work. Ross: Anytime you do a drain tile project, you have to use the Farm Service Agency and get permits. You also need a permit through the Watershed District. Then we used Eric Jones from Houston Engineering to help with size and ideas of how to do things. People from the County Soil and Water Conservation District helped me get in contact with people from other agencies like the Minnesota Department of Ag and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in just reaching out to them for ideas on how to go about this. Every one of the agencies has declared that they want to be a part of it; they want the data, they want to know

if this is something that's going to work and if this is something that should be replicated and put on the land more often. Heartland Trust isn’t afraid to roll their sleeves up and get involved in helping farmers and families. What else sheds a unique light on Heartland's initiative to help people in the community, outside the office? Brian: Heartland Trust's mission is, “to provide a lifelong commitment to the well-being of those we serve," which includes our employees, our clients and our communities. We take an active part within our communities by volunteering and supporting many local nonprofits. We fulfill a unique role in ensuring care of our beneficiaries' assets, and providing stability for their future and beyond. In this case, there are two types of beneficiaries; there's a current beneficiary who

receives income off the farmland, and in the future, there's a charity that will be the beneficiary. What story are you hoping this project tells about Heartland Trust's passion for what you do and helping Mother Nature? Brian: As a trust company, we carry a responsibility or obligation to be good stewards of the assets we take care of for individuals and their families. In this case it is a piece of farmland that we have to make sure produces income now while also staying a meaningful asset for the future beneficiary, years down the road. With this project, we can also think about water conservation and helping the environment.

There's some highly erodible land out in that farm–pattern tiling is going to allow me to leave more of a residue on top, whether it's minimum-till or no-till, and yet get in there in the spring in a timely manner, and put another crop in. Now, I'm protecting it from wind erosion also; there are so many layers to what we're doing. What intrigues me with Heartland Trust is their willingness to step outside of the closed little box that most landlords are in, rightfully so. They want to help you improve, they want to improve the land and they're part of the really important process of securing a large and safe food source for the world, and also making sure that we're being environmentally friendly.

Ross: I think it's important to understand the treated wetland is going to have another asset to conservation with the minimization of nutrient loading into the system.




Bringing the Thunder TO FARMING IN THE USA AND CANADA Q&A with Thunder Seed Owners; C O V E R I N G M I N N E S O T A , N O R T H D A K O TA , S O U T H D A K O TA , WISCONSIN AND WESTERN CANADA

How has Thunder Seed's products shined when other products/growers may have struggled?

Paul Adams

How did you adapt to the 2021 drought, and how did your product persevere through that? The 2021 drought was pretty prolific around here; others had it worse; others had it better. We're really seeing products do very well–we're surprised at some of the product performance where drought was very, very apparent and we're excited to get the combines rolling in the field so we can see those yields.

The owners are also farmers and consistently test their own products. How does that dynamic play a role in maintaining a top-tier product, and showing other farmers Thunder Seed is a trusted name? At Thunder Seed, the customers really have learned to trust us because we're farmers just like they are–we're going to plant in the field, we're going to run it through our own 18



Our products have really shined in the last eight to ten years; we're seeing genetics really advance. Mike Dietrich, our product manager, has done a fantastic job selecting the best corn hybrids for these areas as well as the best soybeans for this area. So we've really seen advances in yields, which meet or exceed competitors in the area.

farm, test it, analyze it and make sure that it doesn't get out to the farmers if it's not what we would want to grow on our own farm.

Everything you sell you plant on your own farms. How does that approach give you an edge? We're actually out there just like [the farmers] are. We're not sitting behind a corporate desk, we're not having to meet expectations from 1000s of shareholders and meet profit levels. It has to perform on our farm, it has to perform in the area, otherwise, we really wouldn't be here and the reason that we're here is because it has performed– and people have really found value in that performance.

Paul Adams Owner of Thunder Seed Adams Seed Wendell, MN

Farming and family are intertwined words I hear often. How does family enhance and add value/meaning to Thunder Seed? The biggest thing with family is the feeling of belonging. And people really like that culture that we have of belonging to a seed company; they don't get that same feeling with a large corporation. They don't maybe get that same feeling if they are ordering online. We want to convey that they belong in the Thunder Seed family and they can see that in the product. They can see that in how we do business day to day, whether it's knowing the names of their kids or birthdays or anniversaries. They really feel it's a different experience.


How has Thunder Seed's products shined when other products/growers may have struggled? The varieties we pick, they're absolutely at the top of the list of all varieties in our area. They're defensive and they yield extremely well.

How did you adapt to the 2021 drought, and how did your product persevere through that?

Farming and family are intertwined words I hear often. How does family enhance and add value/meaning to Thunder Seed? I'd say the whole group of Thunder Seed employees is kind of like a big family. We all razz each other, we all get along great, everybody that's working here does a great job and it's just like one big happy family.

An addition to serving the upper midwest, Thunder Seed has also entered the Canadian seed market.

Brian Petermann Owner of Thunder Seed Petermann Seed Hawley, MN

We had good subsoil moisture coming into it, so we had a pretty good stand to start with. We caught some timely rains to start with and then when July came, we probably went six weeks without rain. The corn, from what I've heard, is down but not terrible.

The owners are also farmers and consistently test their own products. How does that dynamic play a role in maintaining a top-tier product, and showing other farmers Thunder Seed is a trusted name?

Brian Petermann

We see it firsthand–if it's not a variety that we really like, we'll put it on the backburner. Maybe it'll shift to a different area. If we know it doesn't work in one area, we'll just make sure we don't sell it in that area or if it doesn't do it well in any of the plots we won't sell it at all.

The other growers have trust in us, and when we get a really good variety, we'll talk highly of it and growers hear that and they follow with it and go through and they'll try it themselves the following year.


Everything you sell you plant on your own farms. How does that approach give you an edge?




Steve Tobolt


We are a big family because of the seed industry; that's part of what has made Thunder Seed so successful."

Steve Tobolt Owner of Thunder Seed Tobolt Seed Moorhead, MN

Product quality is everything to growers–what technology/testing goes into your product that makes it superior? Since 1995, we three owners have made it our goal to bring the right products to the farmers in the area, pairing up with the genetic companies to get the right products in line with the areas that we're involved in selling the products in.

How has Thunder Seed's products shined when other products/growers may have struggled? Every year we update our new varieties with the help of key employees, such as Mike 20


Dietrich, who, in terms of soybeans and corn, is one of the best out there when it comes to finding the right varieties for the right locations..

How did you adapt to the 2021 drought, and how did your product persevere through that? Although we had hardly any rain, we did have a lot of sub moisture from the last couple of years that helped us out. It'll be a case-by-case basis when we start combining our production fields and see what we'll get but I think we'll be okay and getting what we need for next year's seed production.


John Sorby

The owners are also farmers and consistently test their own products. How does that dynamic play a role in maintaining a top-tier product, and showing other farmers Thunder Seed is a trusted name? Years of experience; Thunder Seed's three owners have been a part of family farms and family seed conditioning facilities for generations. We all started driving tractors when were probably ten years old and combining when we were about thirteen. We all have seed plants where we ran our family seed farms, so between us, we basically know everything there is to know about seed production and seed processing.

everything you sell you plant on your own farms. How does that approach give you an edge? I enjoy the freedom of walking out on my farm and doing what I know what I'm good at, as well as being able to give my input on what changes need to be made and what could be done better. I enjoy the rewards of being successful and having a good crop from the products that Thunder Seed has provided.

Farming and family are intertwined words I hear often. How does family enhance and add value/meaning to Thunder Seed? Being a multi-generation farmer myself, farming is basically my livelihood. We have all known each other for years, even our fathers knew each other and our grandfathers knew each other. We are a big family because of the seed industry. That's part of what has made Thunder Seed so successful; having the right employees and truly being a family company.

CEO of Thunder Seed

Product quality is everything to growers–what technology/testing goes into your product that makes it superior? Our testing at Thunder Seed is really twofold: we have some great genetic and trade partners that that obviously do a lot of testing. We have the independent research that we're doing, and you combine that together, and that's really where a lot of our product selection comes from. And that's really the driving force behind the products that we're selecting for our dealers and our growers. There's a lot of time put into that process to get the right products for our region.

Farming and family are intertwined words I hear often. How does family enhance and add value/meaning to Thunder Seed? Family starts with our foundation, which is our three owners, Paul, Steve and Brian. Having that foundation as a company is really important–you take and you build on top of that foundation with talented employees. Our dealers just aren't dealers

to us; they're partners, they're part of the Thunder Seed family.

You've had many years of industry experience with some notable names– What inspired you to join Thunder Seed as an owner? What do you love most about the smaller farming community and everything that encompasses the family aspect of farming? When I started in this business, I started with a family-owned company and got some great experience there. I've had the opportunity to work with some national corporate companies, got to travel the US working with some amazing people. Making the decision to come here really gets me back to where I started. I was really looking for that family feel again, where the focus is on what’s important; and that’s our customers. Both our dealers and our growers–that focus needs to be on them through products and services. That's what really attracted me to Thunder Seed, getting back to the ground level. Being part of a family-owned company–that's really focused on our dealers, who are our partners, and our growers, and bringing them the best products that we can. FUTUREFARMERMAG.COM




Thunder Seed is an independent seed company, which allows them to work closely with all the major breeding programs in the industry.

Mike Dietrich

maintaining a top-tier product, and showing other farmers Thunder Seed is a trusted name?

coo of Thunder Seed

Having the Thunder owners also be farmers is very valuable. As I select new soybean lines, they are the first to put them in fields for seed production. That first year of having our new soybean varieties, we’re able to see them in large-scale fields before we go to the market and get them in the hands of our growers.

Tell me about the logistics that go into deciding what seed and product to sell? Selecting our corn and soybeans is a continual year-round process for me. Thunder is an independent seed company which allows us to work closely with all the major breeding programs in the industry and I’m in direct contact with those breeders and other individuals, working with them throughout the year. I’m always thinking about our lineup and evaluating how each product is doing. As I observe experimental lines, I measure them up against our own products. A new variety needs to be better than something in our current lineup for me to consider it. As I’m evaluating those experimental varieties, it’s also important that they meet certain agronomic characteristics. The experimental lines, whether corn hybrids or soybean varieties, are tested well within our area and geographic footprint in replicated research trials across many locations and years. So, we know how they perform in our area with



our different growing conditions before they get into our lineup. There is a great amount of data that is generated and at my fingertips to help me make those decisions. Our customers can know that our products will work well for them.

Product quality is everything to growers–what technology/testing goes into your product that makes it superior? Our production partners do a great job making sure the seed production fields are handled properly and when harvesting, cleaning and processing the seed, it all gets handled with care. Also, for carryover seed supply that we have, we store it in our climate-controlled facility which greatly helps maintain seed quality for good germination and vigor.

The owners are also farmers and consistently test their own products. How does that dynamic play a role in

How has Thunder Seed's products shined when other products/growers may have struggled? One of the things that I focus on when selecting products is consistency. No one can really predict what next year is going to be like so having products that consistently do well helps to get through tough growing conditions like we had this year.

How did you adapt to the 2021 drought, and how did your product persevere through that? Having only a few inches of rain throughout the summer is tough for any plant. Some areas were hit harder than others. However, I have been pleased with how the Thunder products have been performing. Understanding how conditions typically change as you travel east to west in ND and SD allows me to keep in mind those vastly different yield environments and growing conditions. I always want to be sure that I have solid-performing products that can handle those conditions.

The [x]cube LABS Report [x]cube LABS helps enterprises innovate and disrupt markets by leveraging digital as a strategy. That's why they worked with The Grand Farm to create The State of Digital Agriculture 2021 report. In this comprehensive, 120 page report, [x]cube LABS uses its deep expertise in all things digital to provide readers of the report a glimpse at the current challenges those in agriculture face and the innovation opportunities that could address these problems. In the following pages, you can find some of the highlights that this report produced. However, the entire report can be found at xcubelabs. com/research/agritech-report-2021/.



William W. Wilson PH.D.

A Foreword From William W. Wilson, PH.D D

ramatic changes in agriculture– revolutions–have brought about substantial changes throughout society and industry. The transition from hunting and gathering to long-term agriculture application and mechanization of agriculture has substantially changed how farmers grow food. Today, we are at the beginning of a new revolution–the digitization of agriculture.

• Improve efficiency in supply chain management and trading

This revolution includes:

Agriculture is one of the sectors which has been much less digitalized versus other industries. Much can be learned from comparable industries and their evolution toward digitalization. The digitization of agriculture is just launching, and over the next decade, many unforeseen changes will impact and transform these sectors within

• Leveraging digital technology to provide realtime information in the fields • The ability to take massive amounts of data, big data, and distill it into manageable and meaningful insights 28


• Traceability of crops and data throughout the agriculture supply chain.

University Distinguished Professor

CHS Chair in Risk Management and Trading

In just about all cases, digitalization has been developed and adopted for two basic reasons: it is lower cost and has greater accuracy. Generally, it is for these reasons that digitalization is developed and adopted.

Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics

agriculture. Over the past 42 years, I have studied international commodity markets in agriculture. This has included teaching and research in higher education, providing research and consulting for agricultural firms, industry organizations, and governments about key developments within a changing agriculture landscape. Just as agriculture is undergoing the described digital transformation, the tools of the agriculture commodity markets are changing with innovations in the digital space. This report provides agriculture stakeholders throughout the world a great overview of the pressing modern and future challenges facing agriculture, the emerging technology segments within agriculture technology, and examples of companies working to change the world of agriculture. Of particular interest in this report are both the agriculture technology framework and the survey data that has been collected from both farmers and innovators on the state of agriculture technology. The agriculture technology framework includes drones, satellite imaging, internet-of-things-based sensor networks, phase tracking, weather forecasting, automated irrigation, light and heat control, intelligent software analysis, and soil management, all of which are described in the report. This information provides a great primer for novices and veterans alike within the agriculture industry. In addition to these and looking forward, there has been a drastic shift toward the digitalization of agricultural

commodity trading and digital tools to improve the efficiency of the agricultural supply chains. Many of these segments have seen adaptations from existing products, which have been successful in other industries–accelerating many of these products directly to market. Unfortunately, many of these products are built without a key challenge in mind–leading to a solution-first innovation process. This report details many modern and future challenges within the agriculture industry for those looking to identify a gap to address. As agriculture enters the digital transformation, now more than ever, the industry has become an entanglement of interdisciplinary innovations. Each segment within the industry will build on more integrated supply chains, which adopt more efficient digital mechanisms. The Agritech Landscape Report showcases just how far this technology has come in such a short amount of time.

An Overview of

Agritech in 2021


By [x]cube Labs

cube LABS, in collaboration with the Grand Farm, completed a comprehensive study of leading global agriculture companies and listed the most common risks and corresponding opportunities in the Ag-tech space. This report is a valuable resource for stakeholders who are starting their agritech journey by providing them a comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem and insights on strategies and technologies that deliver results.



In the following pages, you will find a snippet of the 120 page report compiled by [x]cube LABS. We hope this will help you along your journey as agritech becomes increasingly included in modern farming practices.



A number of new technologies as well as specialized smart machines are transforming the way the agriculture industry operates, leading to what is now called Agritech. While there is no universally accepted definition of what allows a technology or startup to qualify as agritech, some significant-and rarely disputed—technologies that qualify as agritech include: • Robotics & Automation • Drones & Satellites • Cloud Computing • Big Data • IoT & Sensors • AI & ML • Blockchain • Mobile apps 32


For the full Agritech Landscape Report, visit


The agricultural robots market is projected to grow from USD 7.4 billion in 2020 to USD 20.6 billion by 2025; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22.8% during the forecast period


High upfront investment, power failures, equipment breakdowns, weight carrying capacities, availability of technical skills required to operate and maintain such smart machinery


From harvesting and picking to fertilization and irrigation, robotics and automation can significantly help in overcoming labor shortages and saving resources


While the use of sophisticated machinery is by no means new in agriculture, the ability to add a level of ‘smart’ to agri equipment and machinery now means not just that these machines can save more labor, but that they can, in addition, perform tasks that were beyond the capability of machines earlier. As a result, robotics, drones and related automation technologies are being used increasingly to improve the efficiency of agriculture production. With increasing farm size and labor shortages, it has become important to switch to automated processes. Certain advanced robots have been trained to precisely pick fruits based on their size and ripeness. Similarly, automated irrigation systems are used to water crops efficiently.





For the full Agritech Landscape Report, visit

BIG DATA, [W] AI & ML With the increasing use of sensors and related devices, growers are able to precisely track a wide range of data. This includes information about seeds and fertilizer quantities, weather conditions, soil health, crop parameters and more. They are able to leverage this information to anticipate problems optimize resource allocation, and manage schedules better. This often also means that farmers need to make fewer decisions, and data-driven automated systems are able to perform scheduled tasks based on triggers such as time, or specific parameters such as soil condition, temperature, and more. These new capabilities in particular are motivating farmers to take a data-driven approach across a wide range of farming activities.






The overall AI in agriculture market is projected to grow from an estimated USD 1.0 billion in 2020 to USD 4.0 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 25.5% between 2020 and 2026*


Lengthy adoption process, lack of expertise, privacy and security issues.


By combining AI with big data, farmers can get better insights and recommendations based on real-time information. This enables more precise farming practices such as irrigation, fertilizing, crop protection, harvesting and more. A critical use case for big data, in the field of agriculture is similar to the kind of role the technology is playing in other domains such as healthcare, governance and welfare, urban development and more. Essentially, the idea here is that access to vast troves of data can create an environment where academic and research institutions as well as startups and entrepreneurs can collaborate to run experiments, test ideas and theories and, in general, accelerate innovation.


Today, farmers are integrating drones and satellites into their everyday activities for multiple purposes: to monitor crops, check the quality of tillage and sowing works, as well as for spraying and irrigation. Using drones, farmers can monitor large areas without spending time and energy in manual inspection. It is worth noting that drones are not a standalone automation technology; they are, in most cases, ‘agents’, or data collectors operating on behalf of AI-driven programs that process images and video to perform complex analysis and make recommendations and decisions.




The agriculture drones market is expected to grow from USD 1.2 billion by 2019 to USD 4.8 billion by 2024 at a CAGR of 31.4%.*


Precision and cost, filtering data, weight carrying capacity



For the full Agritech Landscape Report, visit agritech-report-2021


Drones can be used to monitor crops and identify crops disease based on AI imaging. Drones can also be deployed for irrigation and fertilization purpose in large farms where there is labor shortage.


IoT solutions are enabling farms as well as supply chain networks to optimize their processes thereby increasing cost efficiency, reducing losses and providing stakeholders with up-to-date information, enabling everyone to make more informed decisions. IoT and sensors are in fact, the basic enabling force which powers every other agritech innovation which we discussed previously.






The IoT in agriculture market size was valued at $ 16,330 million in 2017, and is projected to reach $48,714 million by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 14.7% from 2018 to 2025*


High cost of hardware, disrupted connectivity to Cloud


IoT can be used in monitoring climatic conditions, livestock health, crop monitoring and more. Coupled with advanced analytics platforms, IoT powered sensors can serve as the source of data that helps in making informed decisions that are far faster, as well as more automated.




Cloud computing eliminates the need for creating and maintaining expensive computing hardware, software, information technology, staff, infrastructure and its maintenance. In agriculture, cloud computing helps store all agriculture related data in the cloud without having to worry about the physical location and configuration of the system that delivers the services. POTENTIAL CHALLENGES

Adherence to cyber laws of different countries, data security


Based on historical data, cloud computing can provide centralized and real-time information to all stakeholders in the value chain, help farmers make decisions on what to grow next and so on, and most importantly, as we discussed in the section above on big data, help create an ecosystem where startups, innovators, research institutions and academics can tap into the data to identify problems, test hypotheses and drive innovation.




The use of data and information becomes increasingly crucial for the agriculture sector to improve productivity and sustainability. Blockchain technology can track the provenance of produce reliably and thus help create trustworthy food supply chains. As a trusted way of storing data, this facilitates the use of datadriven technologies to make farming smarter.


The global blockchain in agriculture and food supply chain market size is estimated at USD 133 million in 2020; it is projected to grow at a CAGR of 48.1% to reach USD 948 million by 2025*


Lack of scalability and standardization, difficult to integrate with legacy systems




For the full Agritech Landscape Report, visit



Blockchain combined with IoT can help track food source and origin while keeping information secure and tamperproof. It can also be used to secure crossborder transactions, thereby creating more transparency and trust.




Mobile apps have become an integral part of any digital ecosystem and can be leveraged in agriculture, too. They make information sharing and actions accessible at a tap, which can greatly help everyone along the value chain overcome the challenges of coordination and communication.


Onboarding growers, initial training, comprehensive persona research.


Mobile apps can be used as a knowledge repository for farmers, online platform to buy and sell supplies and produce, by stakeholders to track inventory, transits and more.



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Interested in learning more from the team at [x]cube Labs? Contact Tom Ellingson at

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As we begin to transition to a new year there are a lot of exciting things in the works at the Grand Farm. In each issue of Future Farmer, Emerging Prairie offers up insight into what's new and notable in the cross-section of start-ups and agriculture. This month, we are treated to Emerging Prairie's End of the year report which gives us fantastic insight into projects that are in the work as well as overviews of some of the year's top events. In this section, you will also find a piece from RDO which looks into how autonomous processes and humans can work with one another. 46



50 48 Your Drone Needs a Heart

52 52 Grand Farm End of Season Report






Why the Future of




Autonomy is All About People

What am I going to do in my tractor if I don’t have to steer it?” Although it was more than 20 years ago, Joel Kaczynski recalls the moment as if it were yesterday. It was early in his career and Joel was managing the fertilizer plant in the small farming community of Mantador, 40 miles south of Fargo. Joel worked with all kinds of growers but has a particular memory of one of his grower customers talking about “this thing called AutoTrac.” Based on what Joel knew about AutoTrac, it had the potential to drive great results for growers…but only if it didn’t drive them away first. This grower was like many others Joel worked with, one who genuinely enjoyed operating equipment. He was not resistant to the new technology opportunity because he didn’t believe Joel’s claims that it would increase efficiency. He was concerned the technology would take away this part of his job he enjoyed so much. The grower took a leap of faith. Fast-forward a few months, he was reporting happy employees who






A were less stressed, not to mention tillage passes that were straight as an arrow. Best of all, Joel was reassured in his prediction that the grower would still be spending his days in the tractor. While he was no longer steering, the grower was now able to focus on making sure implements were working properly and he had time to sit back and simply observe the crop.

An Autonomous Nation Still Needs Us Humans AutoTrac was one of the earliest examples of precision agriculture and even a first taste of autonomy. Decades later, the latest in autonomous agriculture was abuzz at the Grand Farm’s final event of the year, Autonomous Nation, held in September. As a speaker at the event, Joel had the opportunity to reflect on his long career in ag as well as provide an overview of the more recent and upcoming

autonomous advancements from John Deere. Today, Joel leads a team that specializes in precision ag for RDO Equipment Co., a dealership representing Deere alongside other leading manufacturers. Joel and his team focus on helping growers understand how to harness technology to reduce waste and boost field productivity. While Joel and his team are certainly well versed in the systems and technology that power new types of equipment, they also know just as much about the “X Factor” embedded into any innovation: people. “It’s really the people behind this making it all work,” Joel says.

Evolving Roles Autonomous farming cannot exist without people. It is a bit of a paradox–the entire concept of autonomy is designed around removing the human element, right? Tractors drive themselves. UAVs scout crops without anyone setting foot in the field. Grain carts follow the combine on their own. The hesitancy to adopt precision agriculture technology range from grower to grower, everything from the cost to if it will really work. But

when looking closer at autonomy, another common fear is that it will replace jobs, not enhance them. The truth is, as autonomy advances, people become more important. The role of the farm worker and agronomist does not go away, and the growers themselves will never be removed from the equation. It is the roles, skillsets and education required to support agriculture that will evolve–and already has changed. Andy Luikens, RDO recruiting program manager speaks about this dynamic regularly and how it has dramatically shaped the career requirements and advancement opportunities for service professionals. From RDO’s perspective as a dealer partner, Andy shares the ways he has seen roles evolve alongside the technology and create new opportunities that did not exist years ago. “Some of these new roles we have at RDO range from a centralized team of technology experts that support technicians to those who work more directly with growers in the field,” he said. As an example of the latter, Joel’s precision ag team is focused on making sure they customer knows not only how to use the technology but also how to use it in a way that meets their goals.



The Essential Element Joel’s point of view paints a positive picture about the opportunity of new roles on the farm, while serving as a reminder that people will still need to be involved. A tillage tool may be able to cover an entire field on its own. But a person has to write the tillage prescription that it allows the machine to do the job. A system may collect and share endless, valuable machine data. But a person has to interpret and analyze that data, then use it to make decisions. A UAV can scout hundreds of acres in the time it would take a person to do one. But that person plays a valuable role in assessing the information and advising based on it. And let’s not forget that every machine, autonomous or not, needs



service and care. The demand for equipment technicians has never been greater, as the human element is essential for troubleshooting, repairs, and routine maintenance. Farming equipment and methods have evolved a lot since a blacksmith named John Deere invented the first steel plow in 1837. They have made even more strides since GPS launched the first automated systems in the 90s. Even when farming reaches the point of driverless tractors, and systems and software doing nearly all the work in the field, Joel’s simple words are an important reminder of the one element that has not yet changed and never will: “None of this happens without people.”

Visit to learn more about precision agriculture technology. Find informative articles, watch helpful videos, and listen to RDO’s Agriculture Technology Podcast.





After every growing season, Grand Farm produces an End of Season report that encapsulates an entire year's worth of projects, events, and activity on the Grand Farm. This report is important for the organization to inform the partners and community members on the incredible research and innovation that occurred that year, summarizing a years’ worth of work in just a few documents.

Equipment; Data Management Platforms; Supply Chain, Traceability, and Agriculture Markets; Connectivity; Edge and Cloud Computing; Autonomous Systems; Sustainability; and, Crop Variations. This year, the Grand Farm Innovation Site was home to 320 projects across these different verticals.

Detailed in this part of Future Farmer are snippets of different sections of that report. For more information on the activities at Grand Farm, visit www.

“William Aderholdt, Andrew Jason and the whole team at the Grand Farm are truly pushing the envelope when it comes to furthering advancements in AgTech. Soiltech Wireless is honored to be a part of these efforts.” - Ehsan Soltan, Founder and CEO at SoilTech Wireless

Grand Farm Projects

Signature Initiatives

Grand Farm’s Innovation Site is home to AgTech projects in industry and higher education conducting demonstrations, applied research and product development. To organize projects, Grand Farm utilizes a typology of AgTech innovation verticals.

Signature Initiatives on the Grand Farm are aimed at creating energy in the ecosystem around hot topics in agriculture technology. This is accomplished through engaging thought leaders, growers, industry, higher education, and government in: roundtable discussions, workshops, events, conferences, and projects.

This typology has 12 segments, including: Inputs; Sensors and IoT; Unmanned Aerial and Ground Systems; Satellites; Heavy



ACReS Started in 2020, ACReS is a signature project focused on bringing autonomous technology and logistics to the agriculture industry. Developed to solve the pain point of diminishing workforce at peak times in agriculture, ACReS utilizes autonomous systems providers to demonstrate and test their equipment. ACReS is a collaboration between organizations in sensors and IoT, autonomous systems, heavy equipment and supply chain. KratosDefense and North Dakota Department of Transportation held a demonstration on the Grand Farm in October 2020 to demonstrate North Dakota’s first autonomous truck–this was used as the foundation of ACReS. 2021’s season concluded with the donation of a fully autonomous tractor and the announcement that Kratos Defense would be working with CHS on developing autonomous logistics in CHS’ supply chain. HarvestTrace Started in 2019, HarvestTrace works to energize the supply chain and traceability segment, providing ecosystem partners a framework to engage. HarvestTrace was the first signature initiative of Grand Farm and started as ProjectX.

In 2021, Genesis Feed Technologies launched Seed-to-Feed which is a central project within HarvestTrace bringing together partners across the entire agriculture supply chain. HarvestTrace engaged a global audience through a virtual event in early 2021 to discuss traceability and blockchain solutions in agriculture. Events & Conferences Grand Farm aims to be a thought leader in agriculture by bringing people together to discuss innovation, highlight the risk takers and amplify the work being done in the industry. Through our events, we hope to connect people, facilitate problems around pain points and amplify the message of what’s being done. Through small scale gatherings like our weekly Harvest Happy Hours to large scale conferences like Cultivate, we were able to bring people together in a safe manner during a challenging time due to the coronavirus pandemic. By the Numbers: across all events (in-person and virtual) across all events represented from across the world







“This past year’s events at the Grand Farm, to me, have been very enlightening and informative on the new and existing technologies coming to the agricultural industry. The Grand Farm has given the ability to explore where ag technology is moving and has allowed these agtech companies to experience a field setting and collaborate with growers and others in the industry to build their companies and ideas while also opening the public's eyes to how we will be managing our food resources in the future!” - Lanny Faleide, founder of Satshot Cultivate Conference 2021 As one of the signature Grand Farm events, the Cultivate Conference’s mission is to connect growers with the agtech industry and highlight the work happening in the agtech industry. During the full-day conference, there was discussion on a wide array of topics, including software applications, precision agriculture, drones, alternative farming methods and more. “I was very impressed by the breadth of topics while having the space for conversations with others in the industry.” - Rebekah Carlson, Nori “Amazing workshop and great conference-awesome to connect with industry experts and leaders.” - Adam Williams, University of Minnesota “The event was an incredible learning experience and an amazing opportunity to make new connections and partners. Having the governor of North Dakota take part and provide a keynote was extremely inspirational.” - Hal Holmes, Conservation X Labs “My experience was excellent. I still find myself frequently reflecting on the presentations, discussions, and possibilities.” - Sonia Hall, BioKansas



Autonomous Nation Conference 2021 Autonomy is no longer a dream, but a reality. At the Autonomous Nation Conference, we believe in the impact that autonomous systems can have across our region, solving issues such as workforce shortages, inefficiencies and technology gaps. Our 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. This full-day conference focuses on the autonomous industry and how it relates to these key sectors-energy, agriculture, urban air mobility and unmanned systems. City employees, policymakers and industry leaders converged at Grand Farm to share and discuss innovations, autonomy and technology. “The Autonomous Nation conference was the first event I’ve attended which addressed the full spectrum of autonomous technology integration. I appreciated the focus on the evolution of business operations and the importance of an autonomous-literate workforce. The discussions and demonstrations at Grand Farm gave a clear picture on how we move beyond marketing splash and create real economic value for the upper Midwest and beyond.” - Aaron Sykes, National Center for Autonomous Technologies







Space Ag Conference 2021 Our world food production system is undergoing a dramatic shift towards sustainable food practices and increased food security. Space agriculture, and the technology it creates, could catalyze the development of high-yield crop production that requires less land and less energy, providing farmers with the ability to create more with less.

"This Space Ag Conference was really great and inspiring. I’ve developed many new ideas and identified key players new to me. I firmly believe this is a grand opportunity for both North Dakota and NASA. Someday we’ll all look back at this conference as being a key turning point for this interdisciplinary field!" - Jon Rask, Director of Astrobiology Operations, Office of the Center Director NASA Ames Research Center

Space Ag Conference was a half-day conference exploring advanced agriculture technologies to elevate the future of the Agtech industry in space. This conference was held in-person with a virtual option and engaged a global audience.