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Farmers benefit from Fargo-based firm's sky-high ag technology

Luke Faleide, left, and his brother Nathan Faleide stand next to a computer monitor at Agri ImaGIS Technologies in Fargo that shows satellite images of two adjacent farm fields and where the higher yields are, which helps farmers produce more on their fields. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Lanny Faleide was 13 when men landed on the moon.

"Our generation always wanted to be astronauts or do something with space technology. That was a fascination of mine," he said.

Now, his company, Agri ImaGIS, has become a worldwide leader in using satellite technology to help farmers and others involved in agriculture to be more efficient.

Put simply, the company's products - prices for which begin at $1 per acre per year - help farmers apply the right amount of seed, fertilizer and other crop inputs throughout a field.

That holds down expenses while also increasing yields.

Think of it this way:

Farmers have used technology for generations to increase efficiency. Agri ImaGIS products are a new step in that long tradition.

Agri ImaGIS products also can be used by insurance companies and their adjusters to map and manage crop loss claims.

And the Fargo-based company offers customized services to a wide range of other organizations, including government agencies and engineering firms.

The company's newest product, Satshot3D, is an online system that allows customers to take a three-dimensional look at their crops, and then to apply inputs at variable rates.

Satshot Mobile allows customers to make and view maps from any Internet-capable cell phone.

Another major development is a 2009 agreement with Westmont, Ill.-based Farm Market iD, a database provider. The agreement gives Agri ImaGIS a comprehensive database on all farms in the United States.

Agri ImaGIS, which is growing rapidly, has 14 employees. Lanny's sons, Luke and Nathan, who grew up with the business, have joined it full time.

The company has its main office at 1120 28th Ave. N., Fargo, and a smaller one in Maddock, N.D., where Lanny Faleide works.

Faleide farmed in the Maddock area for about 20 years.

While farming, "I played with satellite imagery remote sensing a little bit in 1989. I thought it was interesting," he said.

In 1993, he quit farming full time and went back to North Dakota State University.

He took a class on geographic information systems, which led him to launch Agri ImaGIS in 1994.

Farms of all sizes can use Agri ImaGIS products successfully, Faleide said.

"Size is irrelevant to this technology. It's all based on attitude (and) how curious you are," he said.

Paul Overby, a Wolford, N.D., farmer and agricultural consultant, agreed that farms of all sizes can benefit from Agri ImaGIS products.

He began using the products in 2004 on his own farm.

He liked what he found.

"It's good stuff,' he said.

For instance, the products can allow farmers to use significantly less nitrogen, a vital but expensive fertilizer, he said.

Later, he began recommending the products to clients of his Verdi-Plus Value-Added Management Solutions Co.

Faleide said building his company frequently has been a challenge.

"You've been on the edge so many times you don't even want to talk about it anymore," he said.

But he's confident his company has turned the corner.

"The things we talked about 10 years ago are finally coming to fruition. It's comforting to realize we were on the right track," he said.

"I'm having the time of my life."


* Geographic information system (GIS)

A computer system capable of capturing, storing, analyzing and displaying data identified according to location.

* Global Positioning System (GPS)

A U.S.-owned utility that provides users with positioning, navigation and timing services, according to the Web site.

Its uses include precision agriculture.

* Precision (or site-specific) agriculture

Uses technology to identify and manage variations within a field that affect crop yields.

Soil types, moisture availability and other factors vary in the same field. Precision agriculture allows farmers to address that by fine-tuning the application of fertilizer, chemicals and other inputs.