Olds College Smart Farm

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Smart Farm Wordmark

Smart Farm Wordmark

A living lab for hands-on learning, it is a place for innovation, validation, demonstration and scaling of smart connected agriculture technology through industry partnerships.

Applied Research Projects

Smart Farm Wordmark

Yield Forecast, Mapping and Loss Assessment

Smart farming is not an “easy button” which can do everything on the farm just by pressing it. It is hard work, where agricultural specialists are empowered by various tools and technologies helping them to be more productive and efficient. 

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Olds College Smart Farm - A Living Lab for Agri-Food Development

Olds College, in collaboration with its industry and sector partners, is converting the whole of its farming operation to a Smart Farm: an interconnected environment through which the college is leveraging its land (2,800 acres), existing agriculture operations, and applied research programming, in order to provide a product development and demonstration venue to accelerate agriculture technology and agri-food development.  At the same time, the Smart Farm serves as a cutting-edge learning environment for students, producers and the agriculture sector. 

Smart Farm Impact Report  Smart Farm Interactive Project Map

The Olds College Smart Farm is essentially a giant lab that provides the agriculture sector a venue for commercial scale applied research. It is attracting investment and engagement from companies ranging from multi-national ag and tech companies to SMEs (small and medium enterprises). It also provides our students with a learning environment centred on the future of ag and technology, setting the learning experience apart from other programming in the country. 

The purpose of the Olds College Smart Farm is to:

  • Establish the most efficient way to collect and implement the world's best digital agriculture technologies for crop and livestock production;

  • Demonstrate increased efficiency of farming operations through implementation of smart technologies and practices; and 

  • Utilize commercial and pre-commercial technologies for world class education, demonstration, and applied research.

The philosophy and principles guiding the development and operation of the Olds College Smart Farm are centred around engaging producers and industry on addressing real-world problems by utilizing and integrating technology and data. The Smart Farm is also focused on teaching students how to integrate, manage and leverage ag technology for the enhancement and sustainability of agri-food production. 

With the introduction of the Smart Farm, Olds College has created a trusted space where our partners can collaborate together and work to advance agriculture.  The Smart Farm creates a place for producers, industry partners, students and faculty to look at the opportunities and challenges facing the agriculture industry and investigate solutions to evolve agriculture practices.  

In the end, Olds College believes that our focus on ag technology and the problems to be solved will serve as a catalyst for new thinking and leadership that inspires cross-industry solutions, innovation and strategic decision-making.

Olds College Smart Farm Crop and Livestock Plan 2021

The Olds College Smart Farm includes 2,800 acres of land for crops and forage production (excluding ponds, roadways and natural areas)

  • 1,117 acres on main campus at Olds, AB
  • 418 acres across Highway 2
  • 308 acres at Pitstra Farm west of Carstairs, AB
  • 312 acres at Steckler Farm west of Didsbury
  • 600+ acres at the Field Crop Development Centre located at Lacombe, AB

The 2021 crop plan and current research projects that have been integrated into the farming operations can be viewed on the interactive Olds College Smart Farm Map

The Olds College Smart Farm also maintains a cow calf herd with approximately 140 pairs. We currently have 131 cows with calves at foot, 36 yearling heifers (planned for replacements) and 8 bulls. In addition to the commercial beef cattle, Olds College also has a herd of 10 purebred Red Angus yearling heifers, with plans to expand that number in future years. On average, the Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production houses 500 additional animals for custom feeding trials, residual feed intake trials, and other research initiatives on a fee-for-service or cost recovery basis. The Smart Farm also includes 152 breeding ewes, 5 rams, and approximately 300 lambs will be born in 2021.  

  

Smart Farm Projects & Activities

Primarily focused on five main areas of applied research — autonomous agricultural equipment, sensors, data utilization, technology development and validation, and regenerative agriculture — the Smart Farm is working towards providing producers with real-life applied research to help them make informed decisions about implementing technology in their own operations.

Autonomous Agricultural Equipment

Automation and robotics for farm operations presents numerous opportunities and challenges for western Canadian agriculture. The applied research related to the DOT power platform and implements is focused on an evaluation of the technical, economic, and environmental "footprint" of autonomous agricultural equipment operation.

  • Comparison of "life cycle" field efficiency of autonomous equipment and conventional equipment for a variety of field configurations and conditions.
  • Understanding required labour and skillset required for long-term operation of autonomous agricultural equipment and comparison with conventional equipment
  • Optimization of mapping tools and techniques to improve efficiency of making a field "DOT-ready"
Data

Smart and precision agriculture is heavily reliant on data. Research at Olds College is focused on developing and optimizing ways to collect, manage and utilize on-farm data for evidence-based decision making.

  • Hyperlayer data concept development including generation and utilization of multiple layers of geospatial data for the creation of predictive algorithms, mapping plant available soil nutrients, and identification of yield limiting factors.
  • Using as-applied data to assess overlap reduction with sectional control technologies
  • Compilation of training data sets and specific data layers to validate and optimize novel soil and crop mapping techniques
  • Development of a user guide that outlines prescription mapping methods from different service providers and the corresponding file formats
  • Evaluation and summary of features for various farm data management platforms
Sensors

On-farm data collection relies on climate, soil, crop, and weather monitors and sensors. The applied research at Olds College is focused on evaluating the functionality, accuracy, reliability, and connectivity of pre-commercial and commercial sensors and understanding the value the data can provide to producers.

  • Implementation of a multi-sensor cluster to evaluate and compare performance of several types of soil, climate, and crop sensors
  • Measuring the effect of method of installing soil sensors on accuracy of soil moisture data
  • Validation of real-time soil nutrient sensors
  • Evaluation of a novel micro-climate sensor
Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture practices support a more holistic management of cropping and livestock systems to improve overall soil health, biodiversity, and sustainability of food production. Applied research at Olds College focuses on evaluation of technologies that support and quantify the benefits of regenerative agriculture practices.

  • Evaluation of technologies for remote grazing management and quantification of benefits of intensively managed grazing versus conventional grazing on animal, soil, and forage health
  • Evaluation of novel crop cocktail blends on long-term soil and forage health
Technology Development and Validation

New technologies for agriculture require in-field validation and testing in the setting of an operating farm. Olds College applied research supports refinement and optimization of technologies and provides users with information on functionality, accuracy, and value of technologies.

  • Evaluation of variable rate prescription mapping using satellite imagery
  • Preliminary development of cattle facial recognition for cattle identification, lameness detection, etc.
  • Development and testing of an automated and remotely monitored in-pasture weighing system
  • Assessment of performance, accuracy, and cost effectiveness of optical spot spraying in western Canadian conditions.
  • Validation of a novel sensor and algorithm that predicts when grain reaches "average" dry during in-bin drying

Smart Farm Articles

  • FCDC’s First Growing Season with Olds College

    The Field Crop Development Centre (FCDC) at Olds College was in full swing for the 2021 planting and growing season. FCDC — located in Lacombe, Alberta — breeds new varieties of malting barley, feed and forage barley, and spring and winter triticale supported by pathology, quality, and biotechnology labs. ...more

  • Reviewing OMNiPOWER’s Second Season on the #OCSmartFarm

    Finishing its second year of using autonomous agriculture equipment, the Olds College Smart Farm was able to get A LOT more comfortable with OMNiPOWER by collecting data on a total of 60 missions seeding, spraying, spreading and training across 5,408 acres in partnership with Carlson Ag, Gatez Farms Ltd. and Pattison Farms. ...more

  • Work-Integrated Learning on the Smart Farm

    Providing meaningful work-integrated learning opportunities while benefiting from new skill sets and fresh perspectives — the makings of a successful partnership this year between Olds College and 12 enthusiastic agriculture students.

  • Floating Island Technology for Livestock Water Remediation

    Olds College researchers are evaluating the economic and environmental benefits of using native wetland plants and floating island technology to remediate feedlot runoff water. This research aims to effectively improve water quality for irrigation or livestock use by removing nutrients, heavy metals, and other contaminants — as well as minimizing the presence of algae blooms. Feedlot operators could access alternative, low-cost options for treating feedlot runoff water while being environmentally sustainable. ...more

  • Satellite Imagery on the Smart Farm

    By Dr. Alex Melnitchouck, Chief Technology Officer, Digital Ag, Olds College

    Olds College Smart Farm uses a wide range of leading edge technologies which help to solve various problems and make smart farming even more efficient. Using various types of satellite imagery for monitoring crop conditions and field variability analysis is one of the most important components of the Smart Ag ecosystem. ...more

  • Gamma-Ray Soil Spectrometry on the Smart Farm

    By Dr. Alex Melnitchouck, Chief Technology Officer, Digital Ag, Olds College

    Since its creation, the Olds College Smart Farm has tested and validated pretty much any advanced or leading edge precision ag technology that exists in the world (and this is not an exaggeration!). Digital technologies and innovative tools, which can speed up field data collection and analysis, provide detailed information about various field properties, and help making better agronomic decisions became an integrated part of Smart Farm activities at Olds College.

  

  

Thank you to our Olds College Smart Farm Partners

Investors

Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI)Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

  

David Werklund and Susan Norman

  

  

George & Marge Steckler

  

  

Estate of Willem and Marj Pitstra

  

Western Economic Diversification

  

Partners

ATBUFA


   

Neighbors

Farm Credit Canada

Trimble

Vantage

  

Friends

Alberta Real Estate Foundation

Alberta Wheat Commission

Canadian Red Angus Promotion Society

Homestead Feast

NRCC-IRAP

SaskWheat and Western Grains Research Foundation

Western Grains

Zelenka Farms

Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada

Alberta Beef Producers

amii

Arable Labs

Canada Malting

Canadian Agriculture Partnership

Climate Field View

Crop Pro Consulting

Decisive Farming

Farmobile

Farmer's Edge

Grain Discovery

ICT International

Intelliconn/Verigrain

Mitacs

NuFarm

Pessl/Metos

Raven Bay

RealmFive

Red Shed Malting

SAIT

Stream Technologies

Union Forage

University of Manitoba & Beef Cattle Research Council

Croplands (WEEDit)

Wilson, Erma & Roy

WIN

Zedi

Zone Startups Calgary