This Partnership for Innovation project from North Dakota State University Fargo is driven by the need for sustainable agriculture and the recognition that the infrastructure associated with precision agriculture enables a quantitative, data-driven approach to sustainability. The "Smart Farm" includes a data-driven decision support system incorporating sensor data, satellite images, and weather information to allow farmers to respond flexibly to production and environmental needs. The platform is versatile and can be applied to any crop. In the initial phase, sugarbeets will serve as a prototype application. The research has the following four objectives: 1) Examine the current production system for making recommendations regarding fertilizer and pesticide use based on satellite imagery and improve efficiency and scope; 2) Implement prediction of yield based on remote sensing data; 3) Integrate additional sensor and meteorological data; 4) Evaluate the environmental and economic impact of farming choices such as cover crop usage, crop-rotation, and no-till systems as measured within the "Smart Farm".
The broader impacts of this research include a high potential for increasing U.S. competitiveness, considering that it is based on affordable technology that stands to strengthen exports of farm equipment. The businesses involved in the partnership will benefit from the opportunity of exploring new technological developments freely without the constraints of purchase negotiations. The student work will allow the students to make important progress in a direction that has the potential for strong long-term profitability. The project also proffers excellent opportunities for introducing students to research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Considering the importance of agriculture to North Dakota, the subject matter of the proposed work is exceptionally comprehensible to potential young innovators, including students from tribal colleges in North Dakota. Overall, it is the goal of the partnership to establish a self-sustaining basis for innovation, centered on sustainability and data-driven evaluation.
Partners at the inception of the project include the Knowledge-Enhancement Partnership (KEP) unit, consisting of North Dakota State University (Department of Computer Science and Operations Research; Office of the Vice President for Research Creative Activities and Technology Transfer; Extension School of Natural Resource Sciences; Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering); three small businesses: AgriImaGIS,(Fargo, ND); Holland Scientific, Inc.(Lincoln, NE); and Meridian Environmental Technologies, Inc.(Grand Forks, ND); and two large businesses: Crystal Sugar Company (Moorhead, MN) and RDO Equipment Co. (Moorhead, MN). In addition, there is another private sector partner, a large business: Phoenix International (Fargo, ND).