Opinion: Not your grandpa's farm — how expertise is advancing agriculture in Alberta

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Kim McConnell

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Alberta’s agricultural sector appears to be like vastly totally different at the moment in contrast with 50 years in the past. Neglect the stereotypical picture of agriculture. It’s not your grandparents’ farm — there are not any overalls, crimson barns or pitchforks.

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Know-how has reworked the way in which farms look, how they function and the way in which farmers handle their crops, livestock, soil and grasslands. At the moment’s farms are high-tech and high-touch, and future innovation guarantees to deliver even higher alternative.

Innovation is the lifeblood of many industries and agriculture is not any exception. For greater than a century, Canadian analysis has developed new crops, pioneered new manufacturing, and designed and manufactured technologically superior farm gear. These improvements are wanted and adopted around the globe.

At the moment, innovation in agtech is altering the face of agriculture. Know-how developments in precision agriculture, genomics, fertilizers and drones have already reworked Alberta’s agriculture trade: enhancing yields, high quality and effectivity.

Precision agriculture makes use of instruments resembling yield displays, GPS mapping and variable fee expertise to exactly map and handle crop and soil knowledge. This permits farmers to make knowledgeable selections about fertilizer utility, irrigation and planting to extend effectivity and productiveness.

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Superior genomics and chosen breeding are broadly utilized in Alberta’s crops and livestock trade to boost productiveness, effectivity and vitamin.

Developments in fertilizer expertise are serving to crop farmers scale back emissions. Precision utility and 4R nutrient stewardship are altering how farmers apply fertilizer. Furthermore, farmers are utilizing new expertise — resembling sensible fertilizers that adapt to crop and local weather circumstances — and fertilizers comprised of metropolis waste, additional contributing to sustainable agriculture.

Drones and robots are additionally being employed in agriculture to observe fields — from assessing crop well being and maintaining a tally of livestock to detecting weeds and pests — and to interchange duties folks used to do. For instance, robots can milk cows, feed and water animals, and plant and harvest greenhouse crops.

However innovation doesn’t cease there. Quite a few technological developments are on the horizon.

Farmers are more and more utilizing synthetic intelligence and machine studying to foretell crop yields and establish areas of the sphere which are affected by stress or illness. The web connects farm gear, sensors and accounting and traceability software program, permitting farmers to make extra correct and worthwhile selections.

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Blockchain expertise is being examined in agriculture to extend transparency and traceability in provide chains. This permits the agri-food trade to trace their merchandise from farm to desk, offering customers with details about the origin of their meals and making certain the integrity of meals security requirements.

Developments in processing will broaden Alberta’s alternative in value-added agriculture. The longer term will see the power and agriculture sectors working collectively to provide biofuels from waste resembling animal fat, off-grade canola and new-to-Alberta crops resembling camelina.

These are only a few applied sciences that proceed to remodel Alberta’s agriculture trade.

However, there are nonetheless important obstacles hindering agriculture from reaching its full potential. These embrace challenges associated to regulatory approval, infrastructure improvement and funding attraction.

Regulatory approval is famously gradual in Canada, and rules differ between nations. This limits entry to expertise an
d instruments, placing Albertan and Canadian agriculture at a drawback. Regulatory approvals in any respect ranges of presidency needs to be extra streamlined and environment friendly.

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Additionally, infrastructure — particularly broadband capability, rail transportation, and Port of Vancouver limitations — is a big problem that wants enchancment. Alberta ought to think about aiding with tasks that require substantial public investments, as the advantages that move from them will help agriculture and different industries within the province.

Lastly, attracting funding is a 3rd problem, notably within the $20-million to $100-million vary wanted to maneuver commodity merchandise up the worth chain in areas together with value-added processing. Alberta ought to proceed in its effort to make the province a horny location for funding and development.

By addressing these obstacles, Alberta’s agriculture trade can notice the complete alternative of expertise.

Kim McConnell is a Canadian agriculture knowledgeable and a contributor to the Enterprise Council of Alberta. This column is a part of a dialogue paper sequence by the enterprise council referred to as Missions and Moonshots, which explores how Alberta can attain its full potential in three key areas of the financial system: meals, well being and power.

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