A Metos sensor is installed at Olds College’s Smart Farm by members of the college’s research team.
The Pan-Canadian Smart Farm Network is highly anticipated by two agricultural colleges in Alberta and a private research center to develop a smart farm to innovate research.
Two colleges in Alberta and Glacier FarmMedia Discovery Farm in Saskatchewan are starting a national network of smart farms. This is thought to be the first network of its kind in the world.
At Olds College, which is leading the $2.9 million project, associate vice-president of applied research Joy Agnew said, “The Pan-Canadian Smart Farm Network is going to give us a lot more than what we are individually able to do.”.
It is rather like a symbiotic relationship, rather than the three core sides working independently, says Cassandra. As the technology of smart farms advances, “our support for its development needs to keep up.”
There are currently three farms in the network: the Lakeland College Student-Managed Farm in Vermilion, Olds College Smart Farm near Olds, and the Glacier FarmMedia Discovery Farm in Langham, owned by The Western Producer.
However, efforts are being made to not only expand the network to include other Canadian member farms but also expand the network to embrace other smart farms around the world.
According to Josie Van Lent, dean of applied research and agriculture technology at Lakeland College, the initiative is an example of how “technology can reach beyond borders and regions.”
A Metos Canada wireless sensor and device have been installed on each of the three founding farms. By using these instruments, scientists will be able to collect data on water management, field monitoring, and weather forecasting across several land bases and agricultural zones.
Researchers at Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Glacier FarmMedia Discovery Farm said that insects and diseases can travel by following prevailing wind patterns.
Using the technology, the professor says scientists may be able to find out how soon an infestation spreads from Olds College in central Alberta to a farm about 600 kilometers away.
As a result, Agnew, who also serves as the network’s principal investigator, said that each of the members will transform that intelligence into useful actionable intelligence for use on their farms, which they then share.
She said farmers, the agricultural industry, and technology developers will benefit from the expertise and data provided by the network.
“Using the network, Canadian farmers will be able to test technologies developed overseas to ensure they are appropriate for the country. In addition, the team will propose using agricultural technologies from one sector in another”, according to Van Lent.
It has been pointed out that many of the precision agriculture technologies being utilized by western Canadian wheat and canola growers can also be applied to strawberry farming.
Using electronic fence line detectors or virtual fencing for remote grazing management, Agnew says smart farming could also be implemented into regenerative agriculture.
Alternative grazing management methods are often used for regenerative agriculture, in which animals are moved more frequently than conventional grazing. When these areas are far from grazing bases, it can be challenging to manage the grazing activities through traditional means, so technology can be useful in these instances.
Nicole Gaudette, program manager at the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN), said that despite the diversity of agriculture in Canada there are some aspects of production practices that are similar.
To truly stand out against other jurisdictions worldwide, we must share important knowledge, not just with smart farms, but also with ag-tech in general,” Behn said. Agricultural technology is a key sector for Canada, but we want to be even more dominant.
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