Microsoft Invest $1.5 Million in ‘Grand Farm’ Project

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Plans to develop a modern fully autonomous farm in North Dakota, USA received a boost last week when Microsoft Corp announced an investment of $1.5 million into a technology firm called Emerging Prairie. Their ‘Grand Farm‘ project aims to build a brand new modern working farm by 2025. It will serve as a best practice hub for modern agriculture – showcasing the very latest technology and its uses. There are plans for an academy at the site which will teach the farmers of tomorrow how best to use the growing surge in available agricultural data to maximise their crop yields.

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum all attended the Grand Farm press conference

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum all attended the Grand Farm press conference

As one of several Grand Farm project partners, Microsoft will provide access to its own new data-driven technology Azure FarmBeats– a software solution which aggregates and interprets data from a range of farm data sources, making it possible to combine information from satellites, sensors, drones and weather stations. Microsoft staff will be made available to assist with Grand Farm technology initiatives.

According to the Microsoft blog, their ambition on the Grand Farm project is ‘to partner Microsoft technology, technologists, and data scientists with North Dakota farmers and entrepreneurs to build a world-class leading ag innovation center that showcases the “farm of the future.”

According to its own website, the Grand Farm project – inspired by President Jack Kennedy’s 1962 dream to conquer the unconquerable – aims to:

encourage and facilitate community engagement & open source participation, and raise awareness for agriculture & technology projects everywhere… [identify]a model to increase support for new ventures, engage corporate partners, and create economic vibrancy for the state… [innovate]thinking about policies related to that structure to create the conditions for future farms to exist… and launch a software engineering school in April, 2020, to support these technologies.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said he expects that Microsoft’s funds will be used in the first half of three years with most of it dripping into the project right away and the rest used for developing the aforementioned ‘academy’ at the project site.

Associated images provided courtesy of Emerging Prairie

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Leah Zitter is an award-winning High-Tech writer/ journalist with a PhD in Research and clients that include the Association For Advancing Automation (A3).

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