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TECH 2020


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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If harvest is a party, then Fusarium head blight (FHB) is best left off the guest list. When it comes to malt barley production, an outbreak of FHB can cost a farmer malt status due to kernel discoloration, microbial load and the presence of even a low level of the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON).

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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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Crop breeders test thousands of plant lines every year in small, individual test plots. Assessing these plants involves both quantitative and qualitative analysis, but new software aims to substantially refine the process. PlotVision is a new software service that collects data using unmanned aerial imagery (UAI) captured by drones. The data may help researchers predict harvest yield and assess disease resistance, accelerate the plant breeding process and the production of new crop varieties.

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The ability of legumes to self-fertilize by fixing nitrogen from the air is well-known. Developing this ability in grains, however, could radically change Canadian cereal crop production. Such an innovation has the potential to diminish input costs and decrease environmental impact, but making it happen is a complex and challenging task. Alicja Ziemienowicz, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, is working to solve this tricky biological puzzle. While her research began in 2014, and has yielded impressive results, it could be more than a decade from now until we see nitrogen-fixing grains blowing in the wind.

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Over seven-plus decades, Alberta farmer Charles Sherwood Noble developed and promoted new farming practices and technical innovations. Of these, the Noble blade cultivator was used around the world as a low soil disturbance weed control tool. For his work, he was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1943.

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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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