This past growing season, the Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI) research team installed LI-COR chambers on one of the institution’s Smart Farm fields to monitor soil emissions of potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). Advanced technology that produces high volume results quickly, the solar powered system consists of several automated gas chambers connected by tubing to two solar powered trace gas analyzers housed in a small shed.
At the Olds College Smart Farm, we have concluded a two-year project trialing the suitability of satellite imagery to build in-crop variable rate (VR) prescriptions. The project assessed the software used to access normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) imagery captured by satellites. It built VR prescriptions based on the imagery and we then applied that prescription in the field. We identified multiple benefits that include product savings, increased field productivity, opportunities for increased water rates and quick turnaround times to produce prescriptions. Additionally, we noted a few key conclusions.
Not every farm can justify investing in a grain dryer. Some farms are too small and others may not receive enough annual moisture to warrant the expense. While farms in both of these categories still need to dry grain, they may consider alternatives to full conventional setups.
Often, we are not prepared for today’s challenges because we hold onto our “never.” “That will never happen,” or “that never works,” or “that should never be taught in the classroom” and even the dreaded, “we tried that and it never worked.” How many times has our “never” put limitations on our farm operations, our vision for the future or even our simple ability to adapt and change?
The next great leap in digital agriculture, the adoption of intelligent technologies is a complex work in progress. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are engineered to produce agronomic insights farmers can act upon from a vast flow of information that includes precision ag field data, weather, soil and yield data as well as drone and satellite imagery.
The associate vice-president of applied research at Olds College, Joy Agnew co-leads the development of the school’s Smart Ag Ecosystem, a collection of programs and resources that includes its Smart Farm. She describes the school’s farm program as a “one-stop-shop innovation ecosystem.” While it is comprised of academic programs that provide students with practical, hands-on experience at the cutting edge of contemporary farming, the Smart Ag Ecosystem is also a vibrant research department. In recognition of her industry research and leadership of the college’s programming, Agnew was recently recognized as a Top 50 Innovator in Canadian Agriculture by Canadian Western Agribition.
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.