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Nebraska agricultural technology company a finalist for Build Back Better grant

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 4:05 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The goal of the Invest Nebraska Corp. is to make the Cornhusker state a leader in agricultural technology. They are just one of the 60 finalists awarded for the Build Back Better Challenge.

Invest Nebraska says they will use robot technologies and advanced manufacturing automation to help the agriculture industry become safer and more efficient. Company officials add that we have all the talent right here to develop that technology in Nebraska.

Robotic solutions are becoming more common in all industries, agriculture included, as the country combats labor shortage issues among other variables.

“When you think about agriculture, especially in rural areas, they were already constrained by their labor supply prior to the pandemic,” said Dan Hoffman, CEO of Invest Nebraska. “The pandemic has only exacerbated that problem even more and part of that is the population decline in rural areas.”

Invest Nebraska is a venture development — one of the start-up companies they invested in eliminates the need for farmers to work inside grain bins. A robot is used to move around inside the bins and collect data.

“On average, I think between 15 and 20 farmers are killed every single year because they have to get into a grain bin,” Hoffman said. “But if you think about that technology in the grain bin it alleviates a lot of the process for farmers because this robot is telling them real-time information about their grain bin and the dryness of their crop.”

Hoffman says there will always be a human component but that the ag industry needs new innovation and technology. He says that Omaha and Lincoln are some of the fastest-growing areas in the country for artificial intelligence.

“When we looked at some of the data what we found is we have I think the fourth largest proportion of high school and middle school teams that are participating in robotics cluster competitions in the united states

Hoffman also plans to invest in meatpacking and poultry barns by bringing innovation and technology to an industry in need of labor.

“There’s a lot of solutions we believe like that is going to help out farmers and ranchers around not only Nebraska, but around the country,” Hoffman said. “If we don’t get ahead of this and we start developing the solutions ourselves what we’re going to be faced with is adopting the solutions developed by others in other parts of the country or other parts of the world.”

Invest Nebraska received $500,000 for Phase 1 of the grant; the corporation will request $30 million over the next four years in Phase 2.

Hoffman said that between 30 and 40 Phase 2 grants are expected to be awarded.

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