Farmers here quickly adopting new technology
CANADIAN FARMERS HAVE ALWAYS been quick to adopt new technology. It’s a short distance from the research lab to the field, and farmers have never lost sight of that.
In fact, they’ve shown their support of research and technology since early last century. That’s when innovators such as Charles Zavitz at the Ontario Agricultural College developed new seed varieties specifically for Canada, ones that helped farmers here be profitable.
And their commitment has carried right through to earlier this year when the university and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs signed a 10-year research agreement for more than $713 million. It’s a huge commitment.
These days, technology is an increasingly bigger part of farm production. For example, for the past six months, animal nutrition and health company Alltech has been researching and developing a new production efficiency program called Smart Dairy. It combines nutrigenomics (the study of how nutrition affects gene expression) and advanced sensor technology.
And across Canada, farmers are adopting the likes of field data management software – that is, data collected in the field through sensors and similar technology, then managed on a phone or laptop – in droves.
Stratus Ag Research, in
its second annual survey of field data management software use, showed that on farms in Ontario and Quebec the uptake of data technology jumped by more than one-third in just one year. About 35 per cent of the 200 farmers surveyed in Ontario and Quebec used field data management software in 2017; that’s a leap from 25 per cent the year before.
That increase puts eastern Canada farmers slightly ahead of their western Canadian counterparts, many of whom had already adopted the technology. They reached the 35 per cent plateau last year, but fell back a bit to 33 per cent in 2017.
Nonetheless, the overall figures shows slightly more than 34 per cent of the producers surveyed are using one or more of the 20 field data management software solutions available in Canada.
And that’s a meaningful increase, says survey coordinator Krista MacLean.
“The market is evolving quickly,” she says.
But there’s still room to grow. Although the research shows producers are increasingly moving towards using field data management technology, about 45 per cent of all respondents have yet to make the leap.
Nearly one-third of them say it’s too costly, or they don’t feel it is worth the investment. Another third say their current system of amassing field data is adequate.
Still, 23 per cent of all non-users said they are planning to adopt new field data management software in the next three years.
Through data gleaned from the survey, MacLean was also able to determine that use of software is more frequent among farmers who are: under 45 years of age, run large-scale farms, invest in crop inputs that will drive higher yields to maximize profits (rather than driving down input costs as a way of maximizing profits) and mainly interested in data for precision farming.
Slightly more than half of the respondents said they don’t work with a third party to analyze, interpret or make recommendations based on knowledge gathered from field data management software. They glean the information for themselves.
However, among those users that have strong relationships with their advisors, two-thirds say they give them direct login access to their software platform. There’s nothing that isn’t out in the open.
MacLean says software developers should consider that farmers say the two most important attributes a software solution must have is ease of use, and that farm data is easily accessible all in one place.
Kind of sound like nonfarmers, too, doesn’t it?