Future of farming: How new technologies are transforming Alberta agriculture
'A lot of people don't think that there's a lot of innovation in agriculture, but it is always moving'
More than 1,000 farmers came out to the first day of a three-day Edmonton agriculture conference to learn about how new technologies can make their livelihoods more efficient.
The FarmTech event at Northlands featured innovations such as Climate FieldView, a new digital agriculture software recently launched in Western Canada. It aims to help farmers make better decisions out in the field.
"Farmers have to make 40 to 50 decisions every year on each individual field," said Denise Hockaday, the Canada business lead for the Climate Corporation, which is hosting the event. "You multiply that over many, many fields that they have — it's a ton of decisions and it's not always easy to be informed when you make those decisions," she added.
"We are given the ability to visualize what's going on with the crop over the course of the season."
That data can include diseases in their crops which might otherwise only be detected at the end of the growing season.
"They can go and do something about it in-season, as opposed to finding out at the end of the season that they've had damage or no crop at all."
Ryan Hallett is a farmer in central Alberta who attended the conference Tuesday to keep up to date on the latest technology.
"It's tough to keep up on," Hallett said. "A lot of people don't think that there's a lot of innovation in agriculture, but it is always moving."
Autonomous technology is something that is on everybody's radar, he said.
"It's crazy what people smarter than me are thinking of, and hopefully they can harness it and make it into something usable for farmers like us."
A presentation from an Indiana farmer who made his own autonomous tractor amazed Aidan Krol, a grain farmer in Spirit River, Alta.
"He said the last two seasons of planting for him, he did not step a foot in the cab," Kroll said. "He kind of rigged up a system from an old XBox controller and would run it through that, and just followed the tractor.
"I would love to have that on my farm one day."
'Do more with less'
Greg Stamp is a seed farmer from Enchant, Alberta who has been coming to FarmTech for the past decade. He said he wanted to learn more about the industry from his peers and called the conference a major agricultural event for the province.
"Some of it is new variety, some of it is different ways of farming or reducing cost-per-acre, or we're improving our sustainability so we can access different markets," Stamp said.
"And [we're] helping to predict what we should be growing or planting for the coming year, because, of course, world markets dictate what we decide to plant."
New advancements also help farmers maximize the productivity of every acre.
"Technology has helped us do more with less," Stamp said. "So, we're more efficient, we're lower impact on the environment."
Jim Galloway of Galloway Seeds Ltd. in Fort Saskatchewan has been farming for 42 of his 62 years. He learned about costs of production, risk management, and long-term weather prediction tools at the conference.
"Hopefully, [technology] improves your bottom line."