HORACE, N.D. — The Grand Farm Project Initiative held its first field day among 14 field events in the next few months.

About 30 people attended a July 16, 2020, event focused on North Dakota State University projects in crop and soil health. Speakers included Frank Casey, an environmental scientist, and Caley Gasch, a soil scientist.

The Grand Farm will do multiple events across the summer and fall. Logistics and details are somewhat fluid.

Brian Carroll, initiative director, said the Grand Farm creates an "ecosystem” in which agricultural technology companies can work together and create innovations in agricultural farm technology.

Field tour-goers on July 16, 2020, at the Grand Farm site walk between plots, including those deliberately left to weeds which will be used in automated, remote weed-recognition studies involving North Dakota State University researchers. Photo taken July 16, 2020, near Horace, N.D. Agweek / Mikkel Pates
Field tour-goers on July 16, 2020, at the Grand Farm site walk between plots, including those deliberately left to weeds which will be used in automated, remote weed-recognition studies involving North Dakota State University researchers. Photo taken July 16, 2020, near Horace, N.D. Agweek / Mikkel Pates
“It’s about research, but also connecting research with large-scale companies and small-scale companies, and bringing venture capital together, all in an effort to accelerate innovation and commercialize it,” Carroll said.

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The focus this year has been on projects — forming partnerships with local organizations to do projects at the Grand Farm. The project includes North Dakota State University, CHS Inc., and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The land, east of Interstate-29, is about 45 acres, with active projects on half of it. Plots include soybeans, corn, wheat and sunflowers.

“We’ve developed 25 projects, conducting about 190 projects," Carroll said. They want to build additional partnerships through the year, and then create a Grand Farm “makerspace” where people can work together on technology.

Some projects focus on such things as spray drift control and equipment testing. They’ll use a robot later in the summer that may play a role in identifying weeds and then using lasers to destroy them.

Field tour-goers on July 16, 2020, at the Grand Farm site walk between plots, including those deliberately left to weeds which will be used in automated, remote weed-recognition studies involving North Dakota State University researchers. Photo taken July 16, 2020, near Horace, N.D. Agweek / Mikkel Pates
Field tour-goers on July 16, 2020, at the Grand Farm site walk between plots, including those deliberately left to weeds which will be used in automated, remote weed-recognition studies involving North Dakota State University researchers. Photo taken July 16, 2020, near Horace, N.D. Agweek / Mikkel Pates
William Aderholdt, Grand Farm’s program manager, said the group is working to host “Innovation Days” and will bring in lawmakers and growers. There will be more demonstrations on robotics and drones next year or the year after.

“In next generation we’ll have the ‘internet of things,’ where you take data and provide insights to farmers,” Aderholdt said. “Some of the land in the farm have sensors that take soil-level data, as well as data from 6- and 12-inch depths, to look at soil moisture, pH levels (acidity/alkalinity), phosphorus, nitrogen.”

Some of the equipment and software used in the project will come from industry partners and small businesses that are emerging to help demonstrate sensor technology. Stacked sensor equipment will make that cheaper, allowing farmers to put them on the land, and use them to monitor or use crop-based software. For information on the events, contact Aderholdt at williama@emergingprairie.com.