Farm­ers here quickly adopt­ing new tech­nol­ogy

The Woolwich Observer - - VENTURE - FIELD NOTES

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?

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