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Until recently, the concept of a digitally connected farm seemed far off. In fact, it is the emerging reality for modern farming. From sensors that offer constant soil analysis, to software programs that provide real-time crop data for tractor cabs, the technology is at a farmers doorstep, bringing with it a host of opportunities and challenges.

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While crop yields have reached previously unheard of levels, the coronavirus pandemic has elevated the importance of food security. For the farmers who ably grow the crops that feed the world, the central concern is income security. It is often the marketing of their products that is troublesome. Farmers increasingly need to be connected to find avenues to market the bounty. Access to information is a key component in making effective marketing decisions. A perennial critique of western Canadian agriculture is a significant information disequilibrium exists between farmers and line companies. How can the gap be bridged?

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As of June 1, 2020, Cereals Canada and the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) officially joined together as one organization. This amalgamation will facilitate the streamlining of functions and services.

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Farmers require PPE for themselves and their employees during daily operation as well as to satisfy Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) requirements where necessary. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus on the healthcare sector as well as a greater volume of use by the general public has created a shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) in the agriculture sector.

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One of the non-COVID-19 challenges we faced on our farm this spring is dealing with flax straw—a tenacious material that needs to be removed from the field before seeding. We had dropped it in windrows behind the combine last fall but it blew all over the field in a windstorm before the baler arrived. We finally accumulated it into bunches suitable for burning this spring, but then we faced dry conditions, strong winds and a county fire restriction that prevented us from burning.

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Canada has seen a growing number of positive tests for COVID-19 among employees at meat processing facilities, which has resulted in slowdowns and closures. This has been most pronounced in Alberta where the Cargill plant in High River is to resume production May 4 following a two-week shutdown. In contrast, agri-food processors have fared much better. Just as seed plants, elevators and farm-to-export transportation links have weathered the pandemic remarkably well, grain-reliant food manufacturers have continued to function, even upping production to meet an aggressive surge in consumer demand.

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