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Introducing students to new technology has been part of the Olds College mandate since its inception in 1913. On its Smart Farm, launched in 2018, students continue to utilize the latest in operational farm technology. Given its fully digital infrastructure, the facility is a logical place for students and ag tech startups to collaborate and prove the value of new agricultural technology to farmers.

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GrainsWest spoke with Schuler grain farmer and Cropland Canada territory manager Travis Albrecht this spring as he was installing a WEEDit system on a farm near Taber. Having just sold six units, pre-sales were already booked until midway through the summer.

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Pushing the technological envelope, the streamlined tractor cabs of today increasingly resemble the cockpits of Hollywood science fiction space ships. Luxuriously ergonomic and digitally decked out, they are often described by big manufacturers as control centres. The term suggests once you’ve eased into the seat of a cab, the universe is yours to conquer. GrainsWest talked with three manufacturers about how technological change is reshaping tractor cab features and controls.

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In Canada’s short growing season, having the ability to make quick decisions based on accurate information is a plus. In recent years, revolutionary new sensor technology has come to market. Its aim is to aid grain farmers in making decisions that improve crop production and quality. These new technologies allow farmers to assess soil quality and fertility in real time and evaluate the results of their fertility plans. This writer attended Agritechnica 2019 in Hannover, Germany, and discovered three such systems that may have applications in Western Canada.

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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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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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With the Alberta rural crime rate being 42 per cent higher than in urban centres in 2017, farm residents have become more interested in beefing up security. Some are using technology to deter crime on their properties.

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