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In its second big year, CrossRoads 2024 offers a vibrant selection of speakers and sessions from Jan. 29-31 at The Westin Calgary Airport. The event’s theme is “New ideas and directions: examining big picture innovation in agriculture.” This emphasis on innovation extends to a wide range of areas, including agronomy, business management, government policy and sustainability. The inaugural event attracted about 800 participants. CrossRoads is for farmers and a wide variety of agricultural professionals interested in its cutting-edge information sessions, lively and informative discussion opportunities and industry networking.

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Technology continues to upend agriculture. More and more tasks in a farmer’s daily routine can be carried out using recently developed technology. From input programs and crop scouting to safety logs and inventory management, farmers typically opt for convenience. Grain marketing is no different.

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Farmers naturally gravitate toward equipment that simplifies their work and is easy to use. The products featured here are intended in some way to make farm operations more convenient and less complex. Some are brand new, while others were launched ahead of their time and have since evolved. 

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Given the escalating cost of production, it’s more important than ever for farmers to maximize productivity. Farm equipment developers and manufacturers are keenly aware of this fact. Their goal is to make harvest simpler, more efficient and less stressful from field to bin.

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Farmers need to know if new agricultural systems and practices are worth the investment. Canada’s smart farms have stepped up to provide answers. These crop, livestock and horticulture facilities study the use of technologies, data and digital tools as well as advanced practices and philosophies to increase overall productivity, profitability and sustainability. “Smart farms within the Smart Farm Network follow this definition but also have the added mandate or goal of sharing information with all stakeholders,” said Joy Agnew, vice-president of research at Olds College.

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The use of drones has become commonplace in agriculture. The Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI)uses them in applied research activities. In the 2023 growing season, more than 10 such projects required drone flights to capture high resolution images and create datasets using cameras and sensors.

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There is growing interest among farmers on the use of biostimulants to boost crop yield and quality. But with curiosity comes skepticism, as limited data on their effectiveness is available. To dispel some of the mystery around these potentially powerful tools, we spoke with companies now developing biostimulants, researchers who aim to quantify their efficacy and farmers who have adopted them in crop management systems.

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With the help of a $10.8 million grant from the federal government’s Digital Technology Supercluster, a consortium of Canadian companies and one university intends to create the world’s first interactive planning software for both autonomous and precision agriculture applications. The intent is to design a program that tracks and displays vital agronomic and geographic information in a single easy-access platform. Dubbed the Standard Data Platform for Autonomous Agriculture (SDPAA), its builders include Lethbridge-based Verge Ag, Terramera, QuantoTech Solutions, i-Open Technologies and Simon Fraser University.

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