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Sonny Perdue and developers cut the ribbon on Grand Farm in Fargo Lon Tonneson
RIBBON CUTTING: USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue (center) cuts the ceremonial ribbon April 27 on Grand Farm in Fargo, N.D. He is joined by stakeholders in the venture.

Grand Farm’s aim: 100% autonomous by 2025

Here are seven facts about the North Dakota initiative.

There is a grand goal for Grand Farm, a private nonprofit initiative recently launched on 45 acres south of Fargo, N.D. Developers hope to plant, care for and harvest a grain crop 100% autonomously by 2025 — using self-driving and self-operated farm equipment guided by artificial intelligence.

Seven essential things to know about Grand Farm are:

1. Funding. It will be funded by public and private investments.

2. Stakeholders. It involves agriculture and tech companies, entrepreneurs, government agencies, and public institutions.

3. Lead. It is spearheaded by Emerging Prairie, a nonprofit based in Fargo, whose mission is to connect and celebrate entrepreneurs.

4. Steering committee. Members are Tammy Miller, Border States Electric CEO; Barry Batcheller, Appareo chairman; Kevin Biffert, Fargo Automation founder; Jake Joraanstad, Bushel Co. founder; Keith Kreps, RDO Equipment executive vice president; Eric Hardmeyer, Bank of North Dakota CEO; Michelle Kommer, North Dakota Department of Commerce commissioner; Lauris Molbert, Arthur Ventures partner; Mike Derheim, The Nerdery chairman; Greg Tehven, Emerging Prairie executive director; and Brian Carroll, Emerging Prairie director of operations and Grand Farm executive director.

5. Farm epicenter. A test site will be built on 45 acres of land just south of Fargo, which will function as the epicenter of Grand Farm activities. Part of the construction will include laboratories, conference rooms and workspaces that will serve as places where people can gather, share ideas and work together on autonomous technology.

6. Fargo’s pluses. Fargo was picked for the site because it is the home of several successful ag tech and manufacturing companies. Also, the area’s flat farmland lends itself to autonomous farming equipment. And like farmers everywhere, producers in the Red River Valley are facing labor shortages and want to reduce input and equipment costs.

7. Boost to science. The project could produce much more than autonomous farm equipment. “In a 1962 speech, President John F. Kennedy challenged the country to go to the moon,” says Tehven, with Emerging Prairie. “The byproduct from this speech was not only space exploration, but also the inspiration of scientists who have led modern technological advances. The Grand Farm is our community’s moonshot.”

Grand Farmarchitect’s illustration of future Grand Farm

FUTURE FARM: An architect’s illustration shows what Grand Farm might look like in the future.
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