Mid-harvest is the worst time for an equipment failure, but that is what happened to Hannah Konschuh as she combined wheat on her family’s farm east of Strathmore last year.
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.
Whether it is an Amazon package arriving at the door, a hotel deal found through Expedia or a ride right now in an Uber, people increasingly prefer a culture made possible by apps and finger taps. It was perhaps inevitable that aspects of agriculture would also become a prime target for disruption.
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.
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.