St. Olaf College | News

Innovative Oles featured in the New York Times

The world is changing — fast. And many people are eager to peek over the horizon to understand what life might (or should) look like after COVID-19.

Whatever comes next, one thing is certain: innovation will always be important. And some innovative Oles are already making the news for their business Poultry Patrol: an ag-tech business that relies on Southeast Minnesota’s high-speed gigabit internet access.

Jack Buendorf ’21 became involved with the startup Poultry Patrol through the Entrepreneurial Scholars program, a program of the Piper Center.

In a recent opinion piece for The New York Times, foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman praised this agriculture robotics company as an example of what can be achieved from any location with access to high-speed internet.

Founded by a team that includes St. Olaf College student Jack Buendorf ’21, Poultry Patrol relies on technology first developed by alumnus Adam Gettings ’04 through his company Rover Robotics. Alumnus Erik Beall ’00, who graduated with majors in both chemistry and physics, is also currently involved with the company.

The main product of Poultry Patrol is a robot that improves animal welfare by monitoring the health of the flock and preventing disease outbreaks. It also tills the poultry coop bedding, identifies dead birds, exercises the birds, and improves their attitudes towards each other. As a result, “mortality decreases and money is saved on feed and medicine,” Friedman explains.

In his opinion piece, Friedman lays out the steps America should take to continue reinvesting in itself following the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the many facets he describes are high-speed internet access and “manufacturing from anywhere through a network of open-source maker spaces.”

One such innovation hub is Red Wing Ignite, which helped launch Poultry Patrol. Located in Red Wing, Minnesota (a community of about 16,500 just 45-minutes northeast of Northfield, Minnesota), this non-profit supports entrepreneurs, businesses, and students on the shoulders of community-wide access to gigabit internet. Gettings is a current board member of Red Wing Ignite and is the former interim executive director of this nonprofit.

Red Wing Ignite is the only rural community currently connected to a larger network of 29 US Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities around the country. Recently, St. Olaf became a partner of Red Wing Ignite through their Entrepreneurs First Collaborative (E1). E1 is made possible for the region through Red Wing Ignite thanks to two grants: the federal EDA i6 Challenge grant and the Launch Minnesota grant.

“As a partner with E1, we are able to leverage our own expertise and resources, and in turn, share ours with our partners,” Associate Director of Entrepreneurship and Outreach Margaret Bransford says about the E1 partnership in a recent Red Wing Ignite feature.

St. Olaf is also offering a summer internship placement with Red Wing Ignite through the Entrepreneurial Scholars program, which is how Buendorf first became involved in Poultry Patrol.

Jack Buendorf ’21, founding member of the ag-tech business Poultry Patrol. Photo by Tom Roster.

“The Entrepreneurial Scholars program provides the opportunity to learn and connect with some of the most creative and motivated Oles,” Buendorf says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Adam embodies all the fantastic characteristics of St. Olaf alumni, and stands as an example to show why St. Olaf’s Entrepreneurial Scholars program is one of the greatest opportunities an Ole could have — all thanks to the Piper Center and the donors.”

Learn more about entrepreneurship at St. Olaf.