When fertilizer prices hit all-time highs and availability became a serious concern this past growing season, it naturally forced farmers to question whether they apply their primary input as efficiently as possible.
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.
Wholesale meat producers with their own Calgary butcher shop, Brant Lake Wagyu (BLW) owners Michelle Ball and son Brandon said demand is on the increase for their ultra-high quality, Kobe-style beef products. What makes the meat so tasty, said Michelle, is a combination of excellent Wagyu-Angus genetics, slow production and a strict barley regimen.
In 2016, Rosthern, SK, barley farmer Matt Enns escaped the Prairie deep freeze to relax in the Florida sun for the winter. More than a mere getaway, he intended to use this time to formulate his next career move after having expanded his stake in the family farm. As fate would have it, while he calculated his agricultural future, he joined a craft beer club near Orlando for the duration of his holiday. Its enthusiastic young members hosted tasting events where they sampled new and unique local brews produced by Florida’s vibrant craft brewing industry. His time with the club inspired Enns to launch Maker’s Malt, a micro-maltster venture. Established in 2018, the business would in turn help inspire those in Saskatchewan’s fledgling craft beer industry to take flight.
Robot vehicles and handheld crop sensors are not tomorrow’s dreams, they are agriculture’s here and now. And while such digital, high-tech innovations are available to farmers and crop researchers, agriculture is a physical pursuit that also benefits from advances in hardware engineering. The following new and improved gear represents a wide array of technological innovation on both digital and mechanical fronts.
Canada is known the world over as a satellite system innovator. Though the most-hyped low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite array now in deployment is the American SpaceX Starlink, Canada’s own Telesat Lightspeed will be launched with rural and remote internet users in mind. Lightspeed’s “fibre-like connectivity” will be licensed to broadband internet providers such as Bell, Rogers and Telus that would in turn supply service to farm and rural customers. These will be 4G LTE or 5G networks.
A group of business development organizations has launched a mentorship program in Alberta to assist innovative agriculture technology and agri-food ventures. The Alberta Yield: Ag and Food Tech Advisory Program is intended to guide tech-based entrepreneurs as they establish their businesses, locate funding and expand.
In the world of technology and investment, agriculture is hot. Big data, robotics and automation technologies are coming to market in the crop and livestock arenas, and promise big changes and rewards for farmers. Canadian agtech companies turn heads worldwide, and are supported by a favourable funding environment and growing support network.