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Olds College and AFSC Partner to Drive Innovation in Agriculture

August 09, 2022

Pictured: Darryl Kay, CEO, AFSC, Debbie Thompson, VP, Academic & Student Experience, Joy Agnew, AVP Applied Research, Celia Sutton, student and Brandon Ramirez, student Celebrate the AFSC and Olds College partnership announcement at AgSmart.

Olds College and Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) have created a formal partnership by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU). As part of the MOU, AFSC will provide support for applied research activities on the Olds College Smart Farm that will drive innovation in agriculture.

“AFSC has a distinguished history in supporting and building Alberta’s agriculture sector, and Olds College is delighted to formally partner with AFSC as we work together on industry-driven applied research,” comments Patrick Machaeck, Vice President, Development & Strategy, Olds College. “Our Smart Ag Ecosystem is a fundamental asset for industry, researchers, faculty, and students, to develop and integrate technology and best practice. The Smart Farm gives us the opportunity to work closely with AFSC to provide technical solutions and training opportunities for the agriculture and agri-food industry — and develop solutions to real-world, everyday agricultural challenges.”

The Smart Farm provides AFSC with boots-on-the-ground testing and learnings for technologies and practices that could help producers in real agriculture settings. This includes support in disseminating results of these products and services to producers, clients and other industry stakeholders.

“Our growing partnership with Olds College continues to benefit producers, our clients and the agri-food industry in Alberta,” says Darryl Kay, Chief Executive Officer, AFSC. “The joint applied research initiatives we’ll be undertaking over the next five years will advance knowledge and work to improve data collection and analysis, sensor testing and validation, automation technologies, field trials, and risk management. We look forward to the road ahead — and discovering ways we can use digital technologies, automation, and ag tech equipment to benefit the agriculture industry in Alberta.”

“I’m pleased to see the growing partnership between AFSC and Olds College,” says Nate Horner, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development. “Smart investments and partnerships like this help solidify the province’s agricultural research and technology leadership. We are looking to the producers and processors driving innovation in agriculture to lead Alberta’s economic recovery. Our government will continue to invest in them to help rural Alberta grow and succeed.”

The Olds College research team worked on a proof of concept with AFSC during the 2021 growing season to see if using drone imagery in hail damaged fields can assist the assessment process. Promising initial results showed that drones could provide a good overview of the extent of damage. The mutually positive experience executing this project helped turn the working relationship between AFSC and the Smart Farm into a longer-term partnership.

Olds College and AFSC are already collaborating on three new projects in 2022:

During the 2022 growing season, the College research team is visiting fields after hailstorms occur to see if high definition imaging from drones can be used to classify hail damaged areas within crop fields. Researchers will create a database of hail damaged crops imagery and see if this could assist ASFC adjusters in the assessment process.

The College is also conducting research to determine if soil moisture measurements captured by soil sensing probes can be used in the estimations of forage yield potential. This will provide learning opportunities for AFSC in support of their Moisture Deficiency Insurance (MDI) program, which compensates participating producers who experience low forage production due to a lack of soil moisture.

In addition, Olds College research team is performing a historical data correlation analysis with AFSC to learn what variables matter most to forage growth including historical precipitation, soil moisture measurements, forage yield records, and other relevant weather measurements. These data sets provide the opportunity for a correlation analysis and model development to determine if forage yield can be estimated and modeled using soil moisture and weather data.

Olds College and AFSC are also collaborating on ways to provide producers with innovative training and educational programming on new production methods and technologies.

This agreement allows AFSC experts to share their knowledge with Olds College students on topics such as data collection, analysis and utilization; risk management and mitigation; financial analysis; and technology integration with in-class presentations and guest lectures. As well, the Olds College research team is able to provide training to AFSC staff on topics related to crop identification and crop loss. 

The growing partnership and MOU between Olds College and AFSC was announced at a live media event during AgSmart 2022 on Olds College Campus. The MOU covers a five-year period and will be governed by a partnership committee of representatives from both Olds College and AFSC.

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