Supporting Ag Innovation at Grand Farm

In February 2023, four Farm Credit institutions partnered to provide more than $1 million in funding support for Grand Farm and the development of a 140-acre Innovation Campus near Casselton, North Dakota. Spearheaded by Fargo-based AgCountry Farm Credit Services, the Farm Credit coalition also includes CoBank, Compeer Financial and Farm Credit Services of America.

Established in 2019, Grand Farm is a network of growers, technologists, corporations, startups, educators, policymakers and investors. It is a place for stakeholders to come together to solve the biggest challenges facing agriculture by leveraging technology and focusing on innovative and sustainable solutions. The Innovation Campus will welcome agriculture professionals from around the world, allowing them to collaborate, demonstrate and research the latest in ag technology. The campus’s first building, the Innovation Shop, will open in May 2024.

American farmers are the most productive in the world.

“As we look to the future, it will be a challenge to feed ten billion people in the next 30 years,” said William Aderholt, director of Grand Farm. "Grand Farm drives inspiration, research and testing of ideas and opportunities to overcome that challenge. Our partners and ecosystem empower and strengthen this work. The Grand Farm Innovation Campus will accelerate solutions that give growers tools and products that increase efficiency and automation supported by data-driven decisions and use input."

“American farmers are the most productive in the world,” said Preston Kranz, regional vice president with CoBank. “But it is vital that we continue to invest in this success. Accelerating costs and labor shortages make the development of new labor- and costsaving equipment vital to the future of agriculture. Grand Farm and the Innovation Campus will be a catalyst for these advancements and a place where producers and researchers come together to develop real-world solutions.”

In early 2022, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum announced a $10 million matching grant to Grand Farm from the North Dakota Department of Commerce. That investment created significant excitement in the region’s agricultural sector. Dan Chrest, vice president, digital strategy & innovation for AgCountry Farm Credit Services, began attending Grand Farm meetings and events to learn more about the opportunity. The more he learned, the more he believed this was a significant opportunity for the Farm Credit System.

“For several months, I immersed myself in learning what Grand Farm was really trying to accomplish,” said Chrest. “I soon learned that this was a solid effort with strong support from the state of North Dakota and the regional agricultural community. With investment from tech giants like Microsoft and solid buy-in from the industry, it was clear that Grand Farm had the momentum to accomplish great things.”

Chrest points out that Grand Farm differs from other innovation hubs in some significant ways.

“Grand Farm isn’t just theoretical,” said Chrest. “Things are really happening at ground level and in-field. Due to its nonprofit structure, it creates a safe space for the industry to come together, collaborate and solve real challenges in agriculture. There is no sense of competition or attempt to keep things secret. At the heart of Grand Farm is a very collaborative spirit, and AgCountry knew we wanted to be a part of it. We are grateful that CoBank, Compeer and Farm Credit Services of America all felt the same way. Each organization stepped up and allowed us to make a truly significant investment on behalf of the Farm Credit System.”

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2023 Sustainability Report.