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Speaker Kris Poulson, vice president of agriculture for Sentera, Minneapolis, is flanked by William Wilson, North Dakota State University distinguished professor of agricultural economics, and Greg Tehven, director of Emerging Prairie, at the Cultivate agricultural technology event in Fargo, N.D. on Nov. 16, 2017.Photo taken Nov. 16, 2017, in Fargo, N.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

'Cultivate' brings 'TED Talk' style to agriculture

FARGO, N.D. — A shiny new regional high-tech agriculture event was launched Nov. 16 in Fargo, N.D., with a promise for a second event in four months on March 22, 2018.

"Cultivate" is a project of Emerging Prairie, a Fargo-based non-profit organization of entrepreneurs dedicated to celebrating entrepreneurs in high technology. The event attracted about 219 registrants.

The event was held at The Stage, a theater venue near downtown Fargo. Cultivate was organized in less than two months and featured a list of 18 panelist-speakers in a four-hour span, with "TED Talk" style mini-speeches.

Greg Tehven, executive director of Emerging Prairie, co-emceed with Dr. William Wilson, a North Dakota State University distinguished professor of agricultural economics. Tehven told event-goers the talks were designed to give attendees a taste of their far-flung enterprises and offered a networking for farmers, startups and venture capitalists, and to promote the ag-tech environment in the Fargo area.

Angry farmers

An audience favorite was the jokingly described, "angry farmer panel" that included Chris Johnson, Great Bend, N.D.; Eric Peterson, president of Summit Agricultural Group, of Alden, Iowa; Gary Wagner, an early-adapter of yield monitors and other technology at his farm near Crookston, Minn.; and Neil Mylet, a farmer, speaker and inventor from West Lafayette, Ind.

Peterson said he sees a lot of technology out there that "don't actually provide an ROI" and said some new technology isn't practical in the field.

Johnson said technology has to be easy and it has to work.

"I'm more of the 'second mouse gets the cheese guy,'" he said. "I need stuff that makes me $1 (a bushel), not 20 cents."

Mylet said his pet peeve is how tech companies boast about how much development money they've raised or talk too much about their lifestyles.

"Deliver something that has value," Mylet said. "Make it work. Don't come and complain to me about how hard you've worked, how many meet-ups you've had or what you guys do for fun. That's great, but it doesn't make me money."

Mylet developed the YellowBox App to allow an operator to remotely load and unload grain with a smartphone. He personally owns 10 worldwide patents.

Go greenhouse

Nick Chaney is "head grower" for Bright Farms, a New York-based company that wants to place "hydroponic leafy green greenhouses near all of the major cities in the United States." There is a pilot facility in Pennsylvania, with others in Virginia, Chicago and a fourth being built in Ohio.

"We're looking at three to five greenhouses to be built every year," he said, with about 30 employees per greenhouse. He described how Bright Farms doesn't have the same challenges of outdoor vegetable production and how he controls sunlight, humidity, temperature and water, as well as mildews. He can even supplement carbon dioxide to the system.

Jay Schuler, director of the North Dakota Commerce Department, urged Chaney to consider producing veggies in North Dakota, where the state could offer numerous advantages, including byproduct heat from the coal industry.

96 harvesters

Barry Bowers, field technology manager for R.D. Offutt Farms, Fargo, said he has to test a new harvester or yield monitor concept on a small scale.

"I have 96 harvesters, so that's a lot of money. It's going to have be really good. We've got to start small," Bowers said.

Jake Joraanstad is CEO of Myriad Mobile of Fargo. The company developed Bushel, a mobile app that helps grain companies provide timely decision-making data to farmers through their smartphones. He told how the concept began as a project with Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, a beet sugar company based in Wahpeton, N.D. The app is for elevators and cooperatives to "develop real-time actionable information."

Joe Heilman, general manager of Intelligent Ag, a joint venture between AGCO Corp. and Fargo-based Appareo, took the Cultivate event opportunity to announce Engage, new zone control equipment to retrofit John Deere 1910 air carts.

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