Idaho may be best known for its potatoes – it produces, after all, a third of all the potatoes in the United States. But its economy is increasingly being driven by technology and green manufacturing companies, big and small.
Yet it was the potato, in a way, that started Boise on a path to high technology industry. In 1978, the late Jack Simplot, founder of the J.R. Simplot Company, developer of Idaho russet potatoes and of freeze-dried French fries for McDonald’s, invested in a start-up called Micron Technology, a maker of semiconductors.
Idaho farmers have been backing technological start-ups ever since. Gerald R. Thompson, for example, said he raised $2 million from farmers near Boise in 2006 to start a company, Sky Detective. The company combines global positioning satellite technology with cellular phone technology from Qualcomm to produce a device capable of tracking people and cargoes anywhere in the world.
Thompson, now a retired deputy sheriff in Los Angeles, said he saw a device that added satellite surveillance to a Qualcomm system to monitor the whereabouts of commercial trucks and found that law enforcement agencies were interested in the device as well.
MobileDataforce also uses cellphone technology for tasks as diverse as enabling workers in the field to give instant estimates and insurance payments for damages to automobiles and homes to keeping track of every metal rod and bolt in the new Bay Bridge under construction between San Francisco and Oakland. The company, Jason Crawforth said, is awaiting a contract from the Agency for International Development to monitor distribution of AIDS vaccines and medicines in 13 African countries.
Photo by Idaho Govt..