Smart Farm

What is the Olds College Smart Farm?

In the summer of 2018, Olds College launched the Olds College Smart Farm, an exciting initiative that has seen the College transform into a farm of the future. By incorporating the latest technologies aimed at improving productivity, while efficiently and sustainably using resources, the Smart Farm is a cutting-edge learning environment for students and life-long learners.

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.

Features of the Smart Farm encompass installing new technologies, including stationary soil monitors, digital weather stations, wireless grain bin sensors, a wireless mesh network that provides Wi-Fi to the entire farm, and rural narrowband connectivity to ensure high-quality internet.

The Smart Farm has incorporated farm management software platforms that gather, store, and visualize production and management data, while utilizing data analytics and machine learning to turn data into information and information into knowledge. By partnering with expert agronomists who serve as agronomic coaches to help analyze the data, the Smart Farm is using the technologies and data gathered to make evidence-based decisions to improve productivity, profitability and sustainability.

Smart Ag Innovation Centre

To properly analyze data, plan for future growing seasons, and collaborate with students, industry partners, and producers, the College required a dedicated space in which stakeholders can meet and data can be processed. This space was created within the former President’s House and has been named the Olds College Smart Ag Innovation Centre (SAIC). The new facility includes a number of elements that are designed to contribute to the academic excellence of students, bolster applied research, decrease the environmental footprint of the Smart Farm, and be an industry leader in Smart Agriculture.

Smart Ag Innovation Centre

Education: Agriculture Technology

As a student in the Agriculture Technology programs, you will have access to the Olds College Smart Farm, a giant lab that gives our ag tech students a competitive advantage, and sets us apart from any other program offered in Canada. The Smart Farm ensures students have access to new and innovative technologies in a real-world ag environment.

Grey Ag-Tech Icon Agriculture Technology Integration Post-Diploma Certificate

This dynamic NEW post-diploma certificate in Agriculture Technology Integration is designed to provide students with an understanding of how related technologies and components interact to provide accurate information and real-time monitoring and controls to the agriculture producer. You will be provided with opportunities to recognize the connectedness of, and interactions between hardware and software to enable producers maximum uptime in the field. You will learn to link emerging technologies with existing farm infrastructure including the installation, calibration, troubleshooting and repair of precision agriculture hardware and equipment, including mechanical, hydraulic and software systems.

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Grey Ag-Tech Icon Precision Agriculture - Techgronomy Diploma

The Precision Agriculture - Techgronomy program is an exciting NEW diploma focused on agronomy and technology. Graduates from the Diploma in Precision Agriculture - Techgronomy will be prepared for careers that require a deep understanding of the connectedness between agronomy, agriculture machinery/purpose built network management, and data sciences.

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Smart Farm Projects

Below is a list of projects currently being worked on at the Olds College Smart Farm.

Field to Glass | Spring 2019

Problem Statement/Challenge: Olds College Brewery to create a fully transparent and traceable beer using malt barley grown on the Olds College Smart Farm with Decisive Farming technology.

Solution/Value Proposition: To show the process of growing malt barley from seeding to processing to final product. Decisive Farming will provide ‘Croptivity’ and ‘My Farm Manager’ for software and app support. Staff will provide Optimize Rx-s and Rx-f for minimum of 6 zones over 160 acres for scalability. Decisive Farming will have an agronomist to work with the Olds College Smart Farm staff to ensure scouting and recommendations are supported. The Decisive Farming team will provide a Data Management Package to process to yield data and conduct P and L evaluations with a grain buyer’s report. Decisive Farming will also coordinate with Carbon Credit Solutions to utilize NERP to measure the GHG reductions. Olds College will provide the acres and cropping support to get the field seeded, sprayed and harvested. Through the software and applications Decisive Farming will be able to provide a data package for traceability and the Olds College Brewery will transform the grain into beer, resulting in the Field to Glass project. Canada Malt (located in Innisfail, AB) will be providing a malt barley contract and an opportunity for some value add services, final support is TBD. Red Shed Malting (located in Penhold, AB) will malt the barley and package it for use in the Olds College Brewery, as well as keep some in house for another custom brew in house.

Project Type: Validation/Demonstration

Start Date: In progress

Corn Grazing | Spring 2019

Problem Statement/Challenge: Feed value of a crop can change throughout the growing season depending on maturity. Determining the optimum time to allow cattle to graze for highest nutrient and feed value can help a producer to cut feed costs by getting the most out of the feed source before it begins losing nutrient value due to frost or crop degradation.

Solution/Value Proposition: Knowing the feed value and dry matter weight of different varieties will help growers to determine what variety will produce the strongest winter feed source for their livestock. Through imagery (NDVI) and lab tests we should be able to evaluate the nutritional value and biomass of the crop prior to feeding and determine how well each corn variety will grow under the seasons growing conditions. With further testing, we should be able to determine if one variety can perform better under certain conditions like more heat units or moisture.

Project Type: Demonstration

Start Date: Spring 2019 Seeding. Testing to begin May/June 2019. Feed and dry matter testing to run September-December 2019.

Soil Sensor Validation | Spring 2019

Problem Statement/Challenge: Soil nutrient/moisture/temperature/functionality changes constantly throughout the growing season. Manual soil tests are costly and take weeks to get results back. Having knowledge of daily soil functionality and levels is critical for producers to make evidence based decisions regarding crop nutrient and protection decisions. Fertilizer is up to 50% of the direct cost of growing and up to 50% of applied fertilizer is lost during the growing season due to leaching and vitalization resulting in nutrient loading in watersheds and GHG emissions that are unnecessary.

Solution/Value Proposition: Teralytic provides LORA enabled NPK soil sensors, software and analytics that allow farmers to manage soil in real time through constant monitoring of soil and crop conditions across 26 data points, sending sensor data to the cloud where it undergoes machine learning through artificial intelligence and soil science to analyze the data to gain insights and subsequent recommendations delivered directly to agronomists and farmers. Results from this knowledge provide reductions in fertilizer and water usage up to 45% while increasing yields and overall productivity and achieving significant sustainability metrics.

Project Type: Validation and Research

Start Date: Spring 2019

Connecting the Farm | April 2019

Problem Statement/Challenge: Farmers are needing to connect their farm and data in a convenient place. As the need for data, data management and storage increases it becomes more important to find a solution that allows farmers to work with multiple companies and organizations. By ‘Connecting the Farm’ we are going to demonstrate the connection of multiple sensors into one platform for an easy to read location for farmers to find their in season cropping data. Currently, each ag company has their own interface and sensors for a farmer. This is causing challenges because farmers do not want to have a handful of apps and logins for each different sensor from each different company. Having one place to combine all that data and use on a dashboard or interface for viewing would allow farmers to see their data in one place, allowing for easier and faster decision making capabilities.

Solution/Value Proposition: IoAg provides a device and system that is agnostic to local network connectivity through LPWAN Sigfox technologies and gateway network capability that enables the connection of many different types of sensors and devices to their RIC, with varying hardware connection designs, attaching two devices per RIC. Through a gateway solution they can create data capture and transmission over a 20 km/13 mile/200,000 acre area. Data from devices is then collected and stored in databases on an Azure instance and is then available for analysis and visualization for decision making purposes. ICT International provides low power, wide area LoRaWAN network capability that connects devices through nodes to a gateway network, through ‘The Things Network’ (enabling low power devices to use long range gateways to connect an open-source, decentralized network to exchange data with applications) and into Eagel IO (a cloud based platform to remotely monitor environmental sensors).

Project Type: Demonstration

Start Date: April 2019

Multi Sensor Cluster | April 2019

Problem Statement/Challenge: There are a variety of new sensors either coming to market soon or just hitting the commercial market with capabilities to measure soil properties. One of the challenges for a farmer is to determine which one can bring value to the farm and which sensors have accurate measures and readings in a dryland prairie environment. The technology is an upfront investment and there is minimal (if any) third party data comparing the accuracy and functionality of these sensors. By placing a variety of sensors in a clustered format on the Olds College Smart Farm and comparing the accuracy to in-season soil tests will help to develop a framework and neutral comparison of all the sensors to determine which are most valuable in the farming environment for Western Canada.

Solution/Value Proposition: The value of comparing the accuracy of each sensor allows farmers to determine cost and benefit of adding technology to the farm. When the sensors are accurate in reading moisture, environment and soil available nutrients, it allows for faster decision making in-season, obtaining instant results instead of waiting 5-10 days for lab tests to be returned. When weather conditions are favorable, being able to react quickly can allow a farmer to capture yield or respond to a negative event and improve crop response as soon as conditions change. Having these sensors in a cluster will also be critical in determining which provides the most value with accuracy in comparison to in-season soil tests. The other value to this comparison will be evaluating the platforms in which each sensor collects data and the transfer of data from those platforms into the ‘Connecting the Farm’ platform.

Project Type: Validation and Demonstration

Start Date: April 2019

Decision Support Platform Comparison | November 2018

Problem Statement/Challenge: Farmers are faced with a huge multitude of companies providing data management software in the marketplace. Each of these software’s have costs associated with them, whether it be for a subscription fee or time that it takes to input and manage the data. Farmers are looking for easy interfaces that allow for quick data input and easy functionality to help improve their decision making ability and data management on the farm. By comparing multiple different software platforms, we will be able to provide a comprehensive analysis of the capabilities, functionalities and end use of the products for farmers. This will be an un-biased assessment of the software’s and their benefits to farmers.

Current platforms being used: Trimble Ag Software, FCC Ag Expert, Decisive Farming, PastureMap and Herd Trax.

Solution/Value Proposition: By allowing farmer’s to collect and manage their data, it allows for better opportunities to make informed decisions with the hope of improving the bottom line. We can evaluate the cost, in terms of time and effort involved, as well as upfront charges to utilize the software. This will allow farmers to see if there is financial benefit in paying for a software and using it for data management and evaluation of in season applications. We can help to remove the buzz and see what aspects work well and sync nicely with other equipment and platforms, and which platforms could use some further development to be more user friendly.

Project Type: Demonstration

Start Date: November 2018


Thank you to our Olds College Smart Farm Partners

Farm Credit CanadaTelusUFA
  • Trimble
  • ATB Financial