Landus, an Iowa-based agricultural cooperative, and Defensewerx have announced the launch of Landwerx, an agriculture innovation hub intended to advance the United States’ food and national security efforts.
The Landwerx innovation hub, based out of the Landus Innovation Connector in Des Moines, Iowa, will grant farmers access to problem solvers and solutions within Defensewerx’s ecosystem.
Defensewerx is an innovation ecosystem intermediary serving national security, defense, and intelligence communities. The firm’s government partners have developed solutions addressing issues facing soldiers and frontline operators in organizations like the U.S. Special Operations Forces, Department of Homeland Security and CIA. Landus is Defensewerx’s first non-government partner.
“A rare partnership”
This collaboration will bring nontraditional collaborators together with the intent to rapidly address on-farm challenges like finding autonomous ways to address labor shortages, and improve equipment and infrastructure deficiencies.
“This is truly a rare partnership between agriculture and national security,” says Matt Carstens, president and CEO of Landus. “Now, when you say those two together, you might wonder, ‘How is that?’ But when you think about what land does in generating food and fuel security that really does equal national security or, even on some level, global security.”
In addition to the practical problem solving purposes, the Landwerx partnership will help farmers access funding opportunities earmarked to advance rural vitality initiatives.
“I want to be focused on a neutral platform that everybody in ag — beyond Iowa, beyond the United States — will have access to, to create an environment that farmers are at the center and fully empowered to do what they need to do, and protect their ideas in a way that’s never been done before in agriculture,” says Carstens.
Brad Chedister, chief technology and innovation officer for Defensewerx, will be the principal innovation officer for Landwerx. He brings with him nearly 20 years of military engineering, research, and technical expertise, now applied in the logistical center of food and fuel production in the U.S.
Chedister says many of Defensewerx’s partners, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Homeland Security, are interested in the Landwerx collaboration because of its potential impact on the supply chain and national security.
Innovation from start to finish
In addition to the physical Landwerx office location, the partnership will have an online tool where members will be able to submit “problem statements” about issues they are dealing with on the farm.
Landwerx will collate these submissions, and facilitate large-scale collaboration events, in a hybrid online and in-person format, to curate which problems to address. These events will bring together farmers, as well as industry, academic, government, and other expert stakeholders in discussion.
Once a tangible, addressable problem is identified, Landwerx will identify resources and funding to achieve the solution. All the way through, this is a democratic process to determine the best course of action for the collective good of the industry.
“We facilitate the working with and development of those solutions, and implementing those to the farmers, with the farmers involved every single step,” says Chedister. “The worst thing for us would be a farmer getting it in their hands, and say: ‘This isn’t what I want.’”
Investing in future generations
Landwerx also plans to engage with universities and high schools to develop the future workforce in agricultural science. This includes intern programs for local Iowa universities, and at a national level.
“We’re going to have a workforce development function of bringing people in and getting engineers and other far-reaching, innovative thinkers to want to stay here in Des Moines, and this community, not run to the coast,” says Chedister. “We want them to do agriculture-related biotech here.”
Defensewerx currently has STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) initiatives to reach children from kindergarten through high school, and plans to use similar programs to inform them about the careers available in agriculture.
For more information about this collaboration, visit Landwerx.org.