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Highlighting the Smart Agriculture Research Team

Smart Ag applied research is focused on evaluating, demonstrating and validating agriculture technologies, tools and practices in order to provide manufacturers and users with information on their functionality, accuracy and value — particularly for broadacre, dryland farming in Alberta soil and climate conditions. 

The research team at Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI) collaborates on industry-driven applied research related to smart ag technologies with the goals of saving producers time or money, improving efficiency, and improving environmental sustainability.

Herman Simons

Hermon Simons

Herman Simons is the Manager of Smart Agriculture Applied Research at OCCI, and is at the forefront where new and exciting technologies are tested in a practical setting for the ag industry and producers.

Herman was born and raised on a farm in the Netherlands and the youngest of five children. He always had a soft spot for Canada and recalls sending hand-written letters to the Canadian embassy asking questions about Canada at 12 years old — foreseeing this would be his future home.

Herman first stepped foot in Canada in 1986 and worked for a few months on a farm in Alberta. After completing his degree in Agricultural Business Management in the Netherlands, Herman returned by participating in the Young Farmers Exchange Program and landed back in Alberta in 1988. He decided to stay, and happily his future wife moved to Canada to be with him after she finished university back in Holland.

Over the years, Herman’s career in Canada evolved from farmhand, to owning and operating his own farm for over 25 years, to representing farmers at provincial and national levels and as a farm management consultant in the private and public sector. Herman has experienced the ebbs and flows in the agriculture industry over the past few decades, and finds it rewarding to be in this exciting and positive space at Olds College that has great potential and significance for the future of agriculture. Herman joined the OCCI team three and a half years ago and is quick to highlight the immense learnings his team has experienced.

Herman says there’s never a boring day at the College, and enjoys the variety of projects and technologies the Smart Ag team works on. He believes the greatest strength of OCCI is the ability to validate equipment, technologies and processes — and be able to provide honest feedback on how the technologies work. Herman explains that his team has practical and agricultural farming experience with a diverse range of skills which gives depth to applied research activities and results.

Herman’s project management expertise is invaluable when working with clients from SMEs to large organizations and everything in between. He enjoys being able to demonstrate how working with the research team on the Smart Farm can help clients address their needs, and see how the research brings value to both the producers and industry. He finds it rewarding to set up research trials with such a wide range of clients to work towards the best outcomes and success. 

When he isn’t working on applied research at OCCI, Herman enjoys the slow pace of fine furniture woodworking on the farm. He takes pleasure in designing pieces of furniture and slowly crafting them as a relaxing hobby. Herman and his wife live on the family acreage where they raised their four children and fully enjoy the yard and country life — especially bike rides.

They enjoy peaceful country living as empty nesters with their one dog, but look forward to their granddaughter coming for visits on the farm. As their siblings are all back home in Holland, Herman and his wife enjoy traveling back home as often as possible.


Roy Maki

Roy MakiRoy Maki, Research Project Manager for Smart Agriculture for OCCI, is leading the College’s autonomous agriculture equipment initiative for broad acre crop production. Roy and his team have been collecting information and observations from the Raven OMNiPOWER™ platform for the past three years to understand the benefits and challenges of autonomous agriculture equipment.

Roy shares Olds College’s passion for using technology to improve Canadian agriculture. Roy attained his experience and knowledge in the agricultural industry through first, being raised on a mixed family farm in Saskatchewan and second, being employed in the agricultural research and testing community. Roy led or contributed to over 100 agriculturally based projects ranging from spray deposition studies to combine harvester testing, air seeder performance, grain drying, cattle RFID ear tag retention, and anaerobic digestion/methane gas production.

Roy holds a B.Sc. Agricultural Engineering degree from the University of Saskatchewan and a M.Sc. degree from the University of Alberta specializing in embedded computer systems and controls. Roy has been a professional engineer for over 33 years whose career has involved him in several entrepreneurial ventures as well.

Roy enjoys sharing knowledge and feels a sense of accomplishment when the team works together to strive towards solutions at work with applied research activities. He notes that he isn't a teacher, but values the post-secondary atmosphere immensely and is eager to pass on his knowledge to colleagues and students who join his team.

For the past three years, Roy has been leading the OMNiPOWER project on campus. He feels immensely privileged to work with OMNiPOWER due to the progressions made on autonomy for broadacre crop production. He feels there have been huge strides with autonomy in agriculture because of this research on the Smart Farm, and feels like his entire team and Olds College have pushed the envelope in regards to autonomy on the farm.

Having OMNiPOWER on campus has really encouraged work-integrated learning with students. They use data and learnings from OMNiPOWER in the classroom, and get hands-on learning experiences with the platform and implements in the field and labs. Roy’s favourite part about showcasing OMNiPOWER on campus is being able to pull a volunteer from the audience to operate OMNiPOWER — at events such as AgSmart. He says everyone gets such a thrill from being able to move a big piece of equipment with a remote control.

Roy calls himself a doer. He likes to stay busy and works on projects around the house. Roy and his wife love traveling — from small trips locally to extreme trips overseas. Roy is always happy to be on the road and even enjoys a drive to Saskatchewan looking at old farmsteads due to his passion for history. Roy and his wife consider themselves to be pet lovers with two dogs and a talking parrot Monte.


Chris Ouellette

Chris OuelletteChris Ouellette is the Research Technical Lead with Smart Agriculture with OCCI. He has over 25 years of experience in agricultural research and is able to apply his knowledge to digital technologies and smart agriculture research projects and activities happening on the Smart Farm.

Chris is a professional engineer with a B.Sc. Agricultural Engineering degree from the University of Alberta. Before joining the OCCI team on the Smart Farm, he worked at the University of Alberta supporting the instrumentation needs of poultry and swine research.

Chris likes the challenge of working in research and on very intense projects. He enjoys testing technologies on the Smart Farm and being able to evaluate their features and equipment readiness — recommending improvements and adaptations for the technologies to be useful in the agriculture industry. 

Wireless connectivity has been Chris’s main focus on the Smart Farm which includes data logger testing, evaluations, software feedback and smartphone apps. He provides feedback to clients and their tech support teams in order to improve processes and explore different platforms. Chris is also passionate about renewable energy and has a roof-mounted solar system at his house in Edmonton. He is part of the team at Olds College exploring research opportunities in agrivoltaics for the Smart Farm.

During the growing season, Chris is often found in the field testing and evaluating a variety of smart agriculture technologies. During fall and winter, he concentrates on writing reports and developing project proposals for the upcoming growing season.

Away from the office, Chris and his wife Irene — who also works with OCCI — split time between their house in Edmonton and the home quarter near Olds, Alta. They grow a large vegetable garden on the farm every year which includes potatoes, carrots, onions, zucchini, squash, parsley, swiss chard and a very special variety of garlic commonly referred to as Wenger’s Russian (titled after Irene’s surname). The original garlic came from a friend of Irene’s parents who was from Russia and shared some garlic cloves almost five decades ago. About 10 years ago, Irene shared the garlic with a fellow potato seed gardener, Bob Klappstein, at a seed sharing event in Edmonton called “Seedy Saturday”.  From there, the garlic made its way into the Canadian horticulture industry as “Wenger’s Russian” garlic in recognition of its roots. 

Chris and Irene are also keen curlers and have belonged to a curling league in Edmonton for decades. After being petless for a long time, Chris and Irene recently welcomed Bandit, an energetic and lovable black lab, who is always by their side whether in the city or exploring the farm. They also love driving out to the family cabin in the Kootenays to hang out and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

Abby Sim

Abby SImAbby Sim is a Project Lead with Smart Agriculture with OCCI. Her job is focused on leading, planning, executing and producing final deliverables for applied research projects. 

Abby’s favourite part of the job is the field work. She enjoys spending time outside in the field during the growing seasons performing data collection. She’s often found taking plant and soil samples throughout the Smart Farm, troubleshooting technologies, processing imagery, and helping with data statistics and analysis.

Being a project lead allows Abby to work with numerous summer students and directed field study research technicians. She enjoys being able to teach them all about the various smart ag applied research projects — especially the N20 project this last year involving the LI-COR gas analyzer technology. Abby also highlights that many students on the Smart Farm aren’t from an agriculture background, so it is especially rewarding to teach them about agriculture in general, how to identify crops and diseases, and crop staging.

Abby graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor of Health Sciences from Mount Royal University. She worked for three summers including an extended internship with the Field Crop Development Centre (FCDC) in Lacombe, Alta. before coming to Olds College to work on the Smart Farm. 

Abby grew up on a grain and beef mixed operation near Ponoka. Abby finds it rewarding to work on applied research projects especially when she can evaluate different technologies and practices that her family would find useful on their farm.

When Abby is away from the office and field, she likes travelling and sports such as hockey, golf, hiking and snowboarding. Abby’s mom grew up in the Netherlands, and Abby and a group of friends recently travelled to Europe and were able to visit extended family. Abby loves animals and used to volunteer at a vet clinic. She is also an auntie to a lot of family member’s pets and has become the regular pet babysitter to them all.

Christina Kaye 

christinakaye.jpgChristina Kaye is a Project Lead with Smart Agriculture at OCCI. Her job is focused on leading, planning, executing and producing final deliverables for applied research projects. Some of the projects she enjoys the most involve collecting and analyzing agricultural equipment data, disease distribution, crop health and agronomic sensor ground truthing. 

Christina explored both policing and kinesiology as careers in post-secondary before enrolling in the Land and Water Resources with a major in Land Reclamation here at Olds College. After graduating, Christina got experience in a variety of agricultural sectors and was inspired to pursue a career in agronomy and agriculture research. 

Christina’s favourite part of her job is field work, along with teaching students and seasonal employees about crop science. She enjoys the diversity of her job and how it’s always changing, and likes contributing to the overall adoption of ag technologies by discovering how they can benefit producers.

When clients come to OCCI about an applied research opportunity, Christina takes their intake forms and helps build the project proposals, charters, and protocols to ensure the projects get planned and executed for the best results. Christina enjoys working with the entire OCCI team and welcomes how everyone’s diverse backgrounds and experiences contribute to the projects by bringing forward new and creative ideas and concepts.

Outside of the office, Christina has been coaching the U15 girls hockey team for over five years. She was encouraged to start coaching since she didn’t have female coaches and mentors growing up in sports. She also highlights how it’s a great way to get involved in the community, especially when you’re new to the area. Christina has a fondness for cattle and has been known to drop everything to rescue young calves that need a helping hand and new home. She also loves all outdoor activities in the summer including golf and swimming. 

Daniel Stefner 

Daniel StefnerDaniel Stefner is a Project Lead with Smart Agriculture at OCCI. He is involved in a multitude of applied research activities that focus on evaluating, validating and developing agriculture technologies, including software testing of user platform applications. Daniel manages projects involving drone and satellite imagery, economic marginal land and remote sensing.

Daniel went to NAIT for a two-year diploma in digital media and IT specializing in business analysis. After graduating, he worked for a few farms which included a six-month work exchange in New Zealand on a crop and beef farm. Daniel came to Olds College as an Agriculture Management student in 2017, and went on to complete the Bachelor of Applied Science program with a major in Agribusiness. He completed his eight-month directed field study as a research technician with OCCI on the Smart Farm, and then stayed on as a full-time research team member with Smart Agriculture. 

He enjoys evaluating and working with add-on farm tech, and seeing how technology can be integrated onto existing farm equipment to make it more economic and helpful. Daniel grew up in a farming family, and his favourite part of the job is working on projects that can be easily implemented by producers like his own family members. Due to his farming background, Daniel is always willing to jump in the equipment when the farm team needs help.

Daniel enjoys the opportunities and variety of project work at Olds College, and the ability to be innovative and creative while working alongside producers, students and industry professionals. Daniel likes to stay busy, and appreciates how day-to-day work is divided between the various Smart Farm fields, lab and desk.

As a fellow graduate from Olds College, Daniel looks forward to working alongside students every year on the Smart Farm. From his learning experiences, he feels he can encourage their success after graduation. He also welcomes the ability to convey the applicability of what students learn in the classroom to what they could be doing in a future career.

Away from the office, Daniel rarely sits down. He always has multiple things on the go such as yard upgrades , renovations and building projects. He takes pleasure in fixing up his house and ongoing woodworking projects. He loves all outdoor activities and is often in the mountains skiing, hiking, skating or camping. He also enjoys travelling and just came back from an incredible trip in Italy with his fiancee Rachel. On weekends, Daniel and Rachel are either spending time on the farm, taking a trip to the mountains, or hanging out with friends and family.

Sofia Bahmutsky

Sofia BahmutskySofia Bahmutsky is a Data Scientist with Smart Agriculture at OCCI. She is focused on data science, machine learning and analytics in the realm of precision agriculture, climate change, environmental health and sustainability research fields.

Sofia explains her role in OCCI as taking raw data from equipment and machinery, and translating or ‘cleaning it up’ in order to extract useable information and perform statistical analysis. Sofia then transforms the useable information into digestible content and graphics that can be used to answer research questions.

Sofia is also involved in the planning stages of applied research projects on the Smart Farm in order to create experimental designs — discovering what is the best and most optimal way to get the data and samples needed for research. Collecting and analyzing data also helps the team troubleshoot the equipment and machines. Sofia has a key role in data collection for LI-COR gas analyzer technology and OMNiPOWER. She is also writing a scientific journal article alongside RAVEN Industries for the ASABE journal about the four-year project with OMNiPOWER and autonomous farming operations on the Smart Farm.  

Sofia holds a M.Sc. in Data Science from the University of British Columbia which she obtained in 2020, and a B.Sc. in Environmental Sciences and Biological Sciences from the University of Calgary earned in 2018. She also holds a BIT designation from the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists. Prior to working at OCCI, she completed an internship with Statistics Canada working on COVID-19 prediction modelling for estimation of risk factors and outbreak clusters.

Currently, Sofia is working with OCCI in a reduced role as she completes her PhD focused on the life cycle assessment of precision agriculture broad acre crop production, temporal/spatial data and data science integration, and agricultural greenhouse gas emissions measurements at source. Her PhD is a large-scale joint research project involving the work she does at Olds College on the Smart Farm with a specialized program at the University of British Columbia.

Sofia recently completed her 60-page dissertation proposal for her PhD supervisory committee, which includes Dr. Joy Agnew, Vice President, Research at Olds College — who was instrumental in inspiring and motivating her to apply for her PhD.

When Sofia isn’t analyzing data or working on her PhD, she enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and downhill skiing. She also loves to draw and is often in the kitchen trying out new recipes. 

Ashutosh Singh

Ashutosh SinghAshutosh Singh is a Data Scientist with Smart Agriculture at OCCI. His role focuses on exploring data to figure out what experiments are saying, utilizing machine learning and making predictive models (such as the models used to predict yield). In other words, he’s a big data guy on campus.

Ashutosh explains that his job is essentially ‘making sense of the data’. He’s usually working on complex mathematical equations and statistics, along with diving through mountains of numbers to find a good solution. He also examines the experimental designs for gathering data, performs experimental testing of the data, and cleans the data in order to use it to make predictive models.

Ashutosh graduated from University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science majoring in mathematics with a minor in statistics. He’s also completed the probability (P) exam in a foundational step to becoming an actuary. He considers himself data orientated in statistics and has an interest in further developing knowledge in probability. 

Ashutosh is excited by trying to find the answer in data science — essentially hunting out the best solution. He reflects that people involved in the data science world look at information and digest it differently, which means they can often find more than one solution for the problem.

Ashutosh’s favourite part of his job is exploring what the data is saying and often being the first person to see if the experiment is working data wise. Working with OCCI, Ashutosh says the variety of applied research projects on the Smart Farm means there is a lot of experimentation happening — and he gets to explore what is working and what is not.

When Ashutosh isn’t rummaging through thousands of numbers and statistics at work, he enjoys a variety of hobbies including gaming, watching soccer, playing chess and watching movies with his fiancee with upcoming nuptials scheduled for fall 2024. Ashutosh’s analytical mind isn’t silenced easily and he is drawn to science fiction/thriller movies like Interstellar, Shutter Island and Inception where he can repeatedly watch the movie and get more depth from the perceptive storylines.

Julie Cobb

Julie CobbJulie Cobb is a Research Technician with Smart Agriculture at OCCI. She primarily works with heavy equipment on the Smart Farm including implements, tractors, autonomous equipment and seeders. Julie’s role is focused on operating and testing pieces of equipment needed for ongoing applied research activities. 

Julie graduated with a diploma in Precision Agriculture Techgronomy from Olds College and joined OCCI as a summer student on the Smart Farm in 2021, which turned into a full time position. She has a computer programming diploma and spent the previous 25 years working in the airport industry, but always wanted to be more involved with agriculture and technology. Julie is passionate about regenerative farming practices and helping farmers work more efficiently — a positive side-effect of her education and work experience at Olds College.

Julie has been a member of the dedicated research team working with OMNiPOWER on the Smart Farm for the past few years. She is often participating in field demonstrations showcasing the OMNiPOWER platform and implements when there are tours coming on campus. She highlights the valuable hands-on experience she’s received over the past few years working with OMNiPOWER — especially right after graduating from the Precision Agriculture Techgronomy program.

Julie enjoys the variety of research projects happening on the Smart Farm and enjoys that a lot of her work during the growing season is outdoors. She is always eager to offer a helping hand and often joins the environmental stewardship team when they need assistance with the 55 floating islands deployed on feedlot ponds near Linden, Alta. Julie enjoys being on site and seeing how different projects are progressing.

Julie is always on the go. When she’s not working, she can usually be found at home hanging out with her family and dogs, or tinkering away at some project around the farm. Julie operates a mixed farm at home with her wife and family which includes beef cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys.

Angie Stoute

angiestoute.jpgAngie Stoute is a Research Technician with Smart Agriculture at OCCI. She started working with the College in September, and is really enjoying learning about the various areas of research and projects the College is involved with. She loves being outdoors and is looking forward to the field work that will be coming in the next growing season.

Angie worked in the lab sector for years and has a strong chemistry-based background. She took biochemisty at Western University, environmental chemistry at the University of Calgary, and land and water resources majoring in reclamation at Olds College. Angie enjoys gathering soil and seed samples out in the field, and also looks forward to being in the lab analyzing samples. 

In her first week working at the College, Angie was quick to volunteer with the environmental stewardship team to perform end-of-season sampling on the 55 floating islands deployed on two feedlot ponds near Linden, Alta. Angie enjoyed being out in the field on site and experiencing how the project is progressing. She found it valuable to see the different species of plants, how they’re growing in the feedlot environments, and how the project was set up and is being analyzed.

Angie comes from a non-farming background, so being able to work closely with researchers from different backgrounds and areas of expertise has been eye-opening to the variety of applied research at the College. During the last few months, Angie has been expanding her knowledge base — especially in the data connectivity world by working on applied research projects involving connectivity, cellular towers and mesh networks. 

When Angie isn’t in the field or lab, she is often spending time with her son and daughter as well as her three grandkids. She grew up in Ontario and has a fondness for the outdoors including swimming, hiking and fishing. She also loves reading and looks forward to relaxing on the weekends with a good book.


Blair Bateman


Blair Bateman is a Research Technician with Smart Agriculture at OCCI whose role involves collecting and working with remote and raw data from the Olds College Smart Farm fields, including the Olds College Saskatchewan Smart Farm. Blair works to ‘process the data’, which includes adding missing information to data gathered from farm equipment — such as chemicals, cost of product or removing data outliers. Adding in the missing information allows Blair and the research team at OCCI to get a complete analysis of the data, equipment and products at a per-acre level.

Blair gathers and layers data from five main components: equipment data, drone imagery, livestock data, weather station data and financial data. Blair uses his education and expertise to change the format of the data to meet the needs of other people at the College. Researchers can use the information in ongoing applied research activities and faculty can work with the data in the classroom. Blair collects data directly from the equipment, weather stations platforms and John Deere Operations Centre (JD Ops). Blair is involved in gathering and managing the data collection. 

Blairs refers to himself as an agriculture data nerd. He likes the challenge of learning new systems and software, figuring out how to work with the new data, and then getting the data cleaned and ready for the next project that needs that precise information. Blair’s main goal with data collection is to work towards a comprehensive data integration project. The majority of Blair’s time in the office is on the computer, but he also gets to venture into the Smart Farm fields.

Blair grew up in Saskatchewan on a grain farm, and worked on small to very large farms before going to school. Blair graduated from the Precision Agriculture Techgronomy program at Olds College. He started working with the Olds College Smart Farm as a summer student, which turned into a full-time career. He’s also on the AgTech Advisory Committee for the Werklund School of Agriculture Technology.

Away from the office, Blair enjoys all sports and loves to travel with his recent trips including Southeast Asia, Australia and Central America. He’s currently taking the Project Management for Information Technology course through NAIT on the weekend, but looks forward to getting back to travelling when his classes are complete.

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