A couple of weeks ago, after one of the driest summers on record, the skies opened up and the deluge began. It quickly became emergency time as farmers across the region scrambled to get potatoes out of the ground.
A couple of years ago, a similar situation occurred resulting in hundreds of acres of potatoes left in the field for a snow goose buffet. Swampy wet fields make it nearly impossible to harvest as the machinery required is often rendered useless. Luckily the fields were seasoned with weeks of dry weather and most farmers were successful with the task at hand. There were images on social media of farmers running their equipment through the fields in the middle of the night. Such is the reality of farming as Mother Nature generally wins these battles.
Technology and innovation does little to fight Mother Nature, but it can help in other ways to assist farmers, ranchers and the food economy. Technological advances, appropriate use of data and innovation are making “agri-tech” a significant and increasingly important part of the food economy.
Feeding the world is an immense task that requires adapting new technologies to assist in not only the production of food, but also how it is adequately distributed along supply chains and processing channels.
There is what could be perceived as an unlikely local guarantor of success in agri-business and agri-tech. TELUS Agriculture is a division of the telecom giant that has been acquiring agri-tech businesses globally with the intention to empower all parties by digitizing key information for the parties to operate more efficiently.
On the splash page at telus.com/agriculture, the title reads “Creating better food outcomes” and goes on to note…“We are on a mission to tackle one of the most significant social challenges of our generation, feeding the world, while improving the quality and safety of our food by leveraging technology innovation and human compassion.”
There are several examples of what technological innovation can do to assist agri-business, two of which stood out to me.
Carbon Robotics has a robot that uses lasers to destroy 100,000 weeds an hour covering 15 to 20 acres a day without disturbing soil or plants and it operates 24/7 autonomously.
I could use one of these in my backyard, and, Pessl's iSCOUT tool uses cameras to identify and count insects in the field. 5G could enable that type of technology to trigger instant decision making, such as trapping or destroying the insects once they've been detected.
TELUS, in undertaking a massive effort to help farmers and ranchers at the core, is also strategically positioning itself to participate in the creation of a robust food system, predicated on the technological innovation that will be required to feed a growing population. This sector is poised for growth and success.Mike Schneider is founder of Project Pickle and likes to write about growing, cooking and eating food.