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North Dakota’s roots are agrarian. The work being done here has affected agriculture around the world. It’s time we plant the flag in the ground and declare it to the world. That’s exactly what we’re doing with Grand Farm, the world’s first fully automated farm.

To understand where agriculture is going, you have to understand where it came from. Farming began about 10,000 years ago when society went from huntergatherers to an agricultural society. They first grew wheat, barley, peas and lentils instead of letting them grow wild. And that’s kind of how it stayed. Over the next thousands of years, farming didn’t change that dramatically. “In many ways, agriculture is the same as it was thousands of years ago,” said Barry Batcheller, Chairman of the Board for Appareo.

“If you were to go back to Mesopotamia, you’d find that the early agrarians would make a slit in the earth and put plants in there to grow. From that, you graduated to water buffalo and they’d drag a stick through the ground and then put seeds in it and it’d grow.” As the water buffalo demonstrated, over the millennia that followed, technology slowly shaped the way that farming is done. However, for the most part, ag tech didn’t transform that rapidly until everything changed in the late 1800s. North Dakota played a pivotal role in that change. Two men by the name of George Cass and Benjamin Cheney, both railroad officials, purchased 13,000 acres of land in Casselton, N.D. According to the State Historical Society of North Dakota, they continued to expand their property until they owned more than 100,000 acres of farmland in North Dakota and Minnesota. This kicked off what officially became known as bonanza farms. These gigantic wheat farms were meant to create gigantic amounts of wealth for its owners. Because of its large size, these bonanza farms required countless men to work the fields but alongside those men came advanced agriculture technology. The impact from the bonanza

farms has had a lasting effect on the Red River Valley over the last 150 years. “Early on, the big Bonanza farms encouraged people to attempt to use early means of mechanization to plant more land and to grow more crops,” said Batcheller. “Fast forward, we’re doing the same thing today. We’re planting more land, we’re highly mechanized.” Now, the Red River Valley and North Dakota as a whole are officially planting its stake in the ground as a continuing leader in ag tech with the launch of the Grand Farm, a push to create the first fully automated farm. Over the rest of this magazine, we’ll examine what this means for our state and the impact it will have on our economy and workforce. However, this all started with one simple question: What’s our major? That’s where Batcheller comes in. WHAT’S OUR MAJOR? In March 2017, at a One Million Cups in Fargo, Batcheller, who has been an industry leader and involved with ag tech his entire career, challenged the Red River Valley to declare its major. After many conversations with Greg Tehven, the executive director of Emerging Prairie, the choice appeared to be easy as to what the region’s major should be.



Profile for Spotlight Media

Fargo INC! May 2019  

Since North Dakota's birth in 1889, the state has been recognized as a leader in agriculture. A flag is now being planted that will be recog...

Fargo INC! May 2019  

Since North Dakota's birth in 1889, the state has been recognized as a leader in agriculture. A flag is now being planted that will be recog...