Joy, Alex & George with Smart Farm Drone

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Smart Farm Receives $5.1 Million Toward Smart Ag Applied Research Program

Joy, Alex & George with Smart Farm DroneThe Olds College Smart Farm has received $5.1 million in federal and industry funding toward its Smart Agriculture Applied Research Program aimed to address the challenges and enhance the application of agriculture technology development and data utilization for broad-acre, dryland cropping systems typical in western Canada. 

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) contributed $2 million, along with the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) that invested $945,867 for new research program infrastructure. Eight industry partners will also be supporting the new program and have committed cash and in-kind contributions totaling $2,174,870. 

“Canada’s agriculture industry plays a critical role in the economic success of our country. Companies are looking for places to develop, validate and demonstrate their technologies. Producers are interested in a place where problems can be addressed and opportunities explored,” comments Stuart Cullum, President, Olds College. “The Olds College Smart Farm is designed to be that place and the Olds College Centre for Innovation is providing the leadership, by bringing the stakeholders together to advance one of Canada’s foundational industries. We are grateful to NSERC, CFI and our industry partners for their support and commitment to this leadership.” 

One key outcome of the Smart Agriculture Applied Research Program will be independent, unbiased information for technology innovators, agricultural producers, agronomists, and other industry stakeholders on the functionality and value of agriculture technologies, processes, and practices. 

“Through the grant money provided by NSERC, CFI and our industry partners we will execute a series of industry-driven, college-led, applied research projects focused on developing, integrating, optimizing, validating and demonstrating innovative agriculture technologies, processes and practices with a focus on understanding the value for primary crop producers and technology companies,” comments Dr. Joy Agnew, Associate Vice President, Applied Research at Olds College. “Our goal is to provide beta testing research that will support small to medium enterprises and help technology developers commercialize products that producers will use and gain value from.” 

Small to medium sized enterprises in the agriculture technology sector will benefit from access to the Olds College Smart Farm subject matter experts, a purpose built network of sensors and data collection systems, and timely research support to help them get their product to market. Going beyond simple validation and demonstration projects, research staff will help companies understand the gaps in their technology and how to optimize to best meet the needs of their target users. 

The first projects under the new Smart Agriculture Applied Research Program are already underway, including a field-scale evaluation of an optical spot spray technology. The research team will be evaluating the effect of travel velocity, stubble conditions, and spray setting on chemical use reduction, spray efficacy, and crop yield over several growing seasons.