Equipment
Precision mapping technology is increasingly user-friendly. In fact, Aaron Breimer, general manager of precision agriculture consulting firm Veritas Farm Business Management, says some precision map-writing software is so simple a producer can segment zones or draw a boundary around a field with little more than the click of a mouse. The challenge is that the maps are only as accurate as the information used to create them.
Published in Precision Ag
Farmers in Alberta are being given the tools to take charge against climate change by adopting on-farm best management practices that are scientifically proven to limit the impacts of agriculture on natural resources like air, water and soil.

Fertilizer Canada is proud to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Agricultural Research & Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA) that includes integration of 4R Nutrient Stewardship (Right Source @ Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place®) into the province's Environmental Farm Plan (EFP). This agreement marks a significant milestone on Fertilizer Canada's journey to create truly sustainable and climate-smart agriculture in Canada.

"We are pleased that ARECA has officially recognized 4R Nutrient Stewardship as a best practice for nutrient management on Alberta farms," said Garth Whyte, President and CEO of Fertilizer Canada. "By encouraging farmers across the province to use fertilizer effectively, Alberta is joining the front lines in the fight against climate change and ensuring their place among the world's leaders in sustainable agriculture."

"ARECA is a long-time supporter and promoter of 4R Nutrient Stewardship," said Janette McDonald, Executive Director. "There is no doubt this formalized partnership with Fertilizer Canada will aid us in expanding awareness of the program as a best practice for nutrient management planning."

4R Nutrient Stewardship is a science-based nutrient management system that is universally applicable yet locally focused. By applying the right source of fertilizer at the right rate, the right time and the right place, farmers can ensure nutrients are efficiently taken up by their crops and are not lost to air, water or soil. This increases crop productivity and reduces unwanted environmental impacts.

Managed by ARECA, the province's EFP self-assessment process encourages producers to assess and identify environmental risks on their farms and take action to improve their practices.

"While Alberta's EFPs already include a section on nutrient risks, adding information about the positive long-term benefits of 4R Nutrient Stewardship will expand awareness among the province's farmers," said Paul Watson, EFP Director at ARECA.

As growers in Alberta adopt 4R Nutrient Stewardship under the Alberta EFP, the acres they manage will be counted under Fertilizer Canada's 4R Designation program, which tracks the amount of Canadian farmland using 4R Nutrient Stewardship to boost productivity and conserve resources. Fertilizer Canada aims to capture 20 million 4R acres by 2020 – representing 25 per cent of Canadian farmland – to demonstrate to the world the commitment Canada's agriculture sector has made to adopt climate-smart and sustainable farm practices.

To learn more about 4R Nutrient Stewardship and the benefits it offers, visit www.fertilizercanada.ca

Learn more about the Alberta Environmental Farm Plan and the benefits it offers by visiting www.AlbertaEFP.com
Published in Corporate News
Deere & Company has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Blue River Technology, which is based in Sunnyvale, California and is a leader in applying machine learning to agriculture.

"We welcome the opportunity to work with a Blue River Technology team that is highly skilled and intensely dedicated to rapidly advancing the implementation of machine learning in agriculture," said John May, President, Agricultural Solutions, and Chief Information Officer at Deere. "As a leader in precision agriculture, John Deere recognizes the importance of technology to our customers. Machine learning is an important capability for Deere's future."

As an innovation leader, Blue River Technology has successfully applied machine learning to agricultural spraying equipment and Deere is confident that similar technology can be used in the future on a wider range of products, May said.

Blue River has designed and integrated computer vision and machine learning technology that will enable growers to reduce the use of herbicides by spraying only where weeds are present, optimizing the use of inputs in farming – a key objective of precision agriculture.

"Blue River is advancing precision agriculture by moving farm management decisions from the field level to the plant level," said Jorge Heraud, co-founder and CEO of Blue River Technology. "We are using computer vision, robotics, and machine learning to help smart machines detect, identify, and make management decisions about every single plant in the field."

Already in 2017, Blue River Technology has been listed among Inc. Magazine's 25 Most Disruptive Companies, Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies, CB Insights 100 Most Promising Artificial Intelligence Companies in the World, and the Top 50 Agricultural Innovations by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Deere said it will invest $305 million to fully acquire Blue River Technology. Deere plans to have the 60-person firm remain in Sunnyvale with an objective to continue its rapid growth and innovation with the same entrepreneurial spirit that has led to its success. The transaction is expected to close in September.

May said the investment in Blue River Technology is similar to Deere's acquisition of NavCom Technology in 1999 that established Deere as a leader in the use of GPS technology for agriculture and accelerated machine connectivity and optimization.
Published in Corporate News
A recent study by the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) found two relatively minor changes in soybean harvest – reducing combine speed and investing in an air reel – can bring significant economic benefit to producers.
Published in Harvesting
Most eastern Canadian producers have considered whether tile drainage is right for their operations. According to Harold Rudy, executive officer of research and business development for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), more than 50 per cent of the agricultural land in southern Ontario is tile drained. In many areas of the province, tile drainage facilitates timely field operations and helps decrease the risk of crop damage during heavy rainfall events.
Published in Other Crops
Canadians now have access to a new level of personal emergency assistance and peace of mind, backed by an organization known for its expertise in finding and caring for critically ill and injured patients.
Published in Corporate News
Choosing a successor is no easy task. While various family members may have ideas about who’s entitled to inherit the farm, the current owners may have very different ideas about who has the skills to keep the farm going in the long run. 

Throw blended families and in-laws into the mix and the question of succession may not have any clear-cut answers. And, in some instances, the best successor may come from outside the family. How does one decide? | READ MORE

Published in Corporate News
An Ontario company that developed lunar rovers for the Canadian Space Agency has adapted the technology for use on Earth. The vehicle – called Argo J5 XTR (Xtreme Terrain Robot) – has applications across a variety of industries, including agriculture.

Ontario Drive & Gear Limited (ODG) is well-known to many consumers as the maker of Argo, popular all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that can travel on rough terrain through land and water. The Argo J5 XTR is an unmanned robotic platform that travels on rough terrain in a variety of conditions ranging from war zones to underground mines without putting an individual operator at risk.

In agriculture, the Argo J5 XTR is being used on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Visscher says his team was challenged to address common health and safety risks to workers, who were using ATVs to spray banana plantations on steep land for black mould. The workers were exposed to fungicide, hazardous terrain and health problems due to climate.

“We came up with a robot that we can mount a small sprayer to,” says Peter Visscher, chief technology officer for ODG. “It can drive up and down the fields with a remote control, and the operator can stay at the edge of the field without being exposed to the chemical, and without risking tipping over on an ATV while spraying.”

Closer to home, an Argo J5 XTR is also in use by researchers at the University of Guelph for soil sampling in precision agriculture applications. Visscher says he sees potential in the ongoing use of J5s to speed up the soil sampling process.

“In winter, fields are rough and surveyors have to take hundreds of samples,” says Visscher. “If we can automate that process, a soil sampling operator could run three or four of these robots and cover four times the distance from the comfort of his pickup truck.”

For more information, visit ARGO-XTR.com
Published in Corporate News
Richardson Pioneer Limited has introduced CropMatrix, a brand new, state-of-the-art agronomy platform designed to enhance its service to farm customers across Western Canada.

The CropMatrix platform offers a full-systems approach to agronomic planning. By gathering, sharing and evaluating historical field data and product performance information, Richardson Pioneer representatives can work one-on-one with farmers to maximize farm profitability.

The new CropMatrix platform features agronomic tools that provide farmers with the opportunity to analyze and gain insights from production and yield data. It will allow Richardson Pioneer to streamline the management of its field trials across the Prairies to get information out to customers quickly and efficiently. CropMatrix will also allow for the interpretation of satellite imagery and the potential to work in the precision farming space in the future.
Published in Corporate News
Harvest weed seed control is a last-ditch line of defence against herbicide-resistant weeds in Australia and one many producers there would rather not have to deploy in the field.
Published in Harvesting

According to the latest Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR) information, agriculture-related fatalities are declining.

From 1990 to 2001, an average of 116 people died due to an agriculture-related incident. From 2002 to 2012, the average number of agriculture-related fatalities declined to 85 per year. Also encouraging is the fatality rates of all age groups saw decreases in this period.

“The decrease in the fatality rates is encouraging,” says Marcel Hacault, the Executive Director of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA). “It means that we are moving in the right direction.”

Between 2003 to 2012, farm machinery continued to be involved in most agriculture-related fatalities with runovers (18 per cent), rollovers (18 per cent) and being pinned or struck by a machine component (9 per cent) accounting for the top three ways people were fatality injured.

Fatality rates due to rollovers and from being pinned/struck by a machinery component also declined. Rollover fatality rates decreased an average of 3.6 per cent annually and fatality rates from being pinned/struck by a machinery component decreased an average of 7.8 per cent annually.

Published in Corporate News
The Canadian pickup truck market caters to the multiple needs of those in need of a truck for either work or personal use. But pickups that serve both the workplace and family are becoming the norm. Trying to offer buyers an unbiased perspective is one of the reasons I started the Canadian Truck King Challenge 10 years ago. Each year, a group of journalist judges continue to fulfill that original mandate: testing pickup trucks and vans the same way owners use them.
Published in Machinery
If you leave your pivot exposed all through the winter, you’re going to be working on it a lot longer in the spring,” says Jeff Ewen, an irrigation agrologist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture in Outlook, Sask. To help producers prevent damage from winter’s storms and bone-chilling temperatures, Ewen offers a number of winterizing tips.
Published in Irrigation
Variable rate (VR) technology has been around long enough that VR fertilizer application is common. But what about VR seeding rates? Like VR fertilizer, VR seeding seeks to smooth out field variability so crop establishment is more uniform.
Published in Precision Ag
Sept. 15, 2016 -  The Climate Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto Company, recently announced the introduction of the company's industry-leading Climate FieldView digital agriculture platform into Eastern Canada for the 2017 growing season.

According to a news release, the platform will give Canadian farmers the ability to easily collect, visualize, and analyze their field data in one centralized platform and uncover personalized field insights to support the many crucial decisions they make each season to maximize crop productivity.

"Similar to the launch of biotechnology in the 1990s, we are now experiencing the next revolution of global agriculture through transformative digital technologies that are helping farmers gain a much deeper understanding of their fields, optimize their resources and maximize their return on every acre," says Mike Stern, chief executive officer for The Climate Corporation.

The Climate FieldView platform is said to combine data science with field science and on-farm data to take the complex, environmental interactions that happen in each unique field and turn them into customized insights farmers can use to make data-driven decisions with confidence.

Officially launched in 2015, Climate FieldView is now on more than 92 million acres across the United States, with more than 100,000 farmers there actively engaging in Climate's digital tools. In less than two growing seasons, Climate FieldView has already become the most broadly connected platform in the industry and has continued to expand new, unique product features and geographic availability of its offerings.

Climate FieldView features in Eastern Canada
  • Data Connectivity - Farmers can experience simple data collection, storage and visualization through the Climate FieldView Drive, a device that provides seamless data connectivity by easily transferring field data from a farmer's equipment into their Climate FieldView account. Launched early this year in the United States, FieldView Drive captures key planting data including hybrid and planting population, as well as key harvest data such as yield, and digitally displays that data in a farmer's Climate FieldView account as the farmer passes through the field. This enables the ability for farmers to easily understand hybrid performance by field, and population with side-by-side views of as-planted and yield data. FieldView Drive will work with many tractors and combines in Eastern Canada. In addition to the FieldView Drive, farmers can connect their field data to their Climate FieldView account through Precision Planting's 20/20 monitors and John Deere's Wireless Data Server (WDS) technology. Climate FieldView also offers farmers the option of cloud-to-cloud connection with many other agricultural software systems, as well as manual file upload.
  • Yield Analysis Tools - The Climate FieldView platform also provides seed performance analysis tools to help farmers evaluate the impact their agronomic decisions have on yield, so they can build the best plan to maximize profitability for the next season. Farmers can analyze seed performance by field and hybrid, and better understand their field variability by quickly and easily comparing digital field maps side-by-side.
  • Advanced Satellite Imagery - With frequent and consistent high-quality field satellite imagery, farmers can find out what's happening beyond the end rows and identify issues early, prioritize scouting, and take action to protect yield. Climate's proprietary imagery process provides consistent imagery quality and frequency by using high-resolution imagery with vegetative data from multiple images, in addition to advanced cloud identification. Farmers can also drop geo-located scouting pins on field health images and navigate back to those spots for a closer look, or share with agronomic partners.
  • Field-Level Weather - With field-level weather information and notifications, farmers can more efficiently prioritize and plan each day. Farmers can view historical, real-time and forecasted weather to decide which fields are workable based on average field precipitation and wind speed.
Availability

The Climate FieldView platform will be available for purchase in Eastern Canada in winter 2016, so that farmers can begin using it on their farms in time for the 2017 growing season. To experience the complete value of the platform throughout the entire season, farmers should sign up for Climate FieldView by Jan. 1, 2017. Farmers can try field-level weather insights, including notifications and scouting, as well as advanced satellite imagery for free on two trial fields. Pricing for the Climate FieldView offering in Canada will be available this fall.

Fundamental to Climate's data privacy policy is the company's commitment to respect that farmers own their data, including the data they generate on their farming equipment.

For more information about the Climate FieldView platform, contact support at 888-924-7475 or visit www.climate.com/canada.
Published in Business & Policy
Are AgBots the way of the future for agriculture in Canada, or simply the latest in a long line of products marketed as must-haves for Canadian producers?

Long used in the dairy industry for autonomous milking and herding, robotics technology is being applied in soil testing, data collection, fertilizer and pesticide application and many other areas of crop production.

“Robotics and automation can play a significant role in society meeting 2050 agricultural production needs,” argues the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Robotics and Automation Society on its website.  

Farmers have a right to question the value of new technologies promising greater efficiency on the farm. But Paul Rocco, president of Ottawa-based Provectus Robotics Solutions, believes robotics offer a suite of potential new solutions for producers short on resources and averse to risk.

“In a perfect world, farmers would have a machine that could perform soil sampling at night, deliver a report in the morning, and be sent out the following night to autonomously spray,” says Rocco. “We’re a ways away from that, but the technology is maturing and the capabilities exist already – it’s about putting it into the hands of farmers and making sure it’s affordable.”

Provectus’ latest project involved problem solving for a banana plantation in Martinique, where human ATV operators are at risk of injury from chemical spray or even death due to unsafe driving conditions. The company recently developed a remotely operated ground vehicle that carries spray equipment and can be controlled by operators in a safe location.

“We see applications in Canada,” says Rocco. “Why expose people to hazardous substances and conditions when you can have an unmanned system?”

Robotics are not all bananas. For example, a Minneapolis-based company, Rowbot Systems, has developed an unmanned, self-driving, multi-use platform that can travel between corn rows – hence, “Rowbots” – to deliver fertilizer, seed cover crops, and collect data.

RowBots are not yet commercially available, but CEO Kent Cavender-Bares says there’s already been interest from corn growers across the United States as well as Canada.

As to whether the use of robotics is cost-effective for farmers, it’s almost too soon to say. But utility can be balanced against cost.

“In terms of cost effectiveness from the farmer’s perspective, there’s a strong story already for driving yields higher while reducing production costs per bushel. Of course, we need to bring down the cost on our side to deliver services while making a profit,” says Cavender-Bares.

He believes that as autonomy spreads within agriculture, there will be a trend toward smaller, robotic machines.

“Not only will smaller machines be safer, but they’ll also compact soil less and enable more precision and greater diversity of crops,” he says.

Case study: ‘BinBots’
Closer to home, a group of University of Saskatchewan engineering students has designed a “BinBot,” an autonomous sensor built to crawl through grain bins and deliver moisture and temperature readings.

The students were part of a 2015 Capstone 495 design course, in which groups of four students are matched with industry sponsors to tackle specific problems.
Joy Agnew, a project manager with the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI)’s Agricultural Research Services, stepped forward with a challenge: could students develop an improved grain bin sensor for PAMI?

“It came about from the first summer storage of canola project we did, and the data showing that in the grain at the top of the bin, the temperature stayed steady during the entire sampling period, but the temperature in the headspace grain was fluctuating wildly,” says Agnew.

“We realized the power of grain insulating capacity – there was less than 15 centimetres between the grain that was changing and the grain that wasn’t. That made us think: the sensors are really only telling you the conditions in a one-foot radius around the sensor – less than one per cent of all the grain in the bin.”

The problem she set to the students: can you design sensors with “higher resolution” sensing capabilities than currently available cables?

“We were looking at some high-tech ideas of how we could do that with radio waves or imaging, and we thought we needed more mechanical systems,” says Luke McCreary, who has since graduated. “We ended up with a track system in the bin roof with a robot on a cable. The robot has a couple of augers on it so it can propel itself through the grain, taking temperature and humidity measurements as it goes and sending that data to a logging source to create a 3D map of the temperature, humidity and moisture in the bin,” he says.

Once built, the robot will be six inches in diameter and 14 inches long, with the ability to move laterally, vertically and transversally.

Agnew says PAMI is applying for funding to build the robot, and has already had some interest from manufacturers. She says the technology could reach farmers’ bins between five and 10 years from now.

“We think this is the way of the future to avoid the risk of spoilage,” she says. “The technology is advancing, and costs are declining rapidly.”
Published in Maintenance
Sept. 9, 2016 - Augers and the dangers associated with grain are well-known hazards during harvest. Protocol for safely working around these elements should be outlined and communicated with co-workers to minimize or eliminate the risk of injuries. When using an auger, one person should be designated as being in charge of the task, and be sure that the equipment is periodically inspected during operation. While the auger is running:
  • Observe work area restrictions
  • Keep all safety shields and devices in place
  • Make certain everyone is clear before operating or moving the machine
  • Keep hands, feet, hair and clothing away from moving parts
  • Shut off and lock out power to adjust, service, or clean the equipment
“Grain handling entrapments can happen very quickly,” says Nicole Hornett, farm safety coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Flowing grain can draw a person down within seconds. High capacity equipment, such as wagons paired with large diameter augers, can be extremely efficient at unloading grain. Flowing grain can pull children and adults down quicker than one thinks they can react.”

The best way to reduce the risk of grain entrapment is to eliminate the situation. Farm workers, however, are exposed to some risks. To reduce risk, follow these guidelines:
  • Consider all alternate methods to free up grain before resorting to entering a wagon or bin. Bin entry should be the last resort.
  • Lock out power to all types of grain handling equipment - disconnect power and place locks over operating switches
  • Always use the buddy system when you are unloading or loading grain - quickly stopping an auger could mean the difference between an entrapment or a fatal engulfment
  • Never enter a bin when grain is caked or spoiled - mouldy, wet grain clumps and, as it is unloaded, a large air pocket can form just below the surface creating a ‘grain bridge’ that can collapse at any time
“Make this year’s harvest season one where everyone gets home safe and healthy at the end of each work day,” says Hornett. “Whether it is shift work with an extended team of farm hands or a few family members, make the plan work for safety. With all the potential hazards during fall work, it takes some discussion and planning to ensure everyone is on the same path to a safe and bountiful harvest.”
Published in Machinery
August 24, 2016 - Richardson International Limited will invest $120 million in its canola processing plant in Lethbridge, Alta. to maximize operating efficiencies and modernize the facility to significantly increase canola crush capability.

Currently, the plant processes approximately 450,000 metric tonnes of canola annually. With these upgrades, the facility will be able to process in excess of 2,000 metric tonnes of canola per day, increasing annual crush capacity to more than 700,000 metric tonnes. Combined with its canola processing plant in Yorkton, Sask., Richardson will have the capacity to process over 1.7 million tonnes of canola per year.

“We are continuing ongoing capital upgrades in Lethbridge to increase crush capacity and realize greater efficiencies,” says Darwin Sobkow, executive vice-president, agribusiness and processing operations. “This will allow us to better serve our customers and create a state-of-the-art facility that is very efficient for its size, positioning us to compete with the most modern canola crushing facilities in North America.”

Upgrades and enhancements to the facility began last year with the addition of new processing equipment. A modern, high throughput seed receiving facility is now being built to increase efficiency and provide quick turnaround for farmers and truckers delivering seed to the plant.

“Increasing the speed of the receiving plant is a top priority for us to better serve our customers, providing them with the ability to deliver their seed quickly and efficiently,” says Sobkow. “We are committed to making a significant investment in our Lethbridge plant for long-term operations to continue to grow our business.”

The new high speed receiving system will be able to receive 800 metric tonnes of canola per hour, a significant increase from the current system, and will be ready for harvest deliveries in the fall of 2017. Sobkow says the upgrades will be completed with minimal to no disruptions to ensure the Lethbridge facility continues to serve both farm customers and end-use buyers.
Published in Corporate News

Farm Management Canada (FMC) will host an Eastern Ontario Family Farm Safety Day in Douglas, Ont., on July 16. This event is supported by the FCC Ag Safety Fund administered by the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA) with funding from Farm Credit Canada (FCC).

Published in Business Management
June 29, 2016 - Promising farm cash receipt projections suggest new farm equipment sales will slowly improve over the next two years, according to Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) latest agriculture economics report.

The report, Projecting 2016-17 Farm Receipts and Equipment Sales, forecasts a seven-per-cent recovery in total farm equipment sales for 2017, buoyed by projections of stronger cash receipts in coming years.

“Farm equipment is among the most valuable assets for many farmers and is a great indicator for the state of the farm economy,” says J.P. Gervais, FCC’s chief agricultural economist. “While producers, manufacturers and dealers must exercise caution, strong demand for agricultural commodities, low interest rates and a stable Canadian dollar are all factors that should trigger improvement in the new farm equipment market.”

Total new farm equipment sales fell by 13.8 per cent in 2015, due to uncertainty surrounding Canadian crop production and weaker commodity prices. Higher prices for new equipment in Canada – as a result of a weaker Canadian dollar – also contributed to a decreased demand for equipment.

Strong new equipment sales prior to 2014 made 2015 sales appear low, even though they were in line with the 10-year average.

“Equipment sales are usually a leading indicator of farm health,” Gervais says. “Tighter margins in recent years have led several farmers to choose leasing over buying their agricultural machinery. We’ve also seen new groups of producers in the market buying and sharing farm equipment.”

New farm equipment sales for 2016 started off slow compared to 2015 sales levels, but are expected to turn the corner and should begin strengthening towards the end of 2016 and into 2017 thanks to an improved agriculture economic outlook, according to the FCC report.

“The reason we are projecting a turn-around in new farm equipment sales is that cash receipts for various agriculture sectors are looking stronger,” Gervais says. “Nothing is written in stone, but the key indicators are looking pretty good.”

The report projects crop receipts will increase 5.8 per cent in 2016, with a further 3.8-per-cent increase in 2017. These projections are highly influenced by strong prices in futures markets for major grains and oilseeds, as well as a Canadian dollar that is expected to remain below its five-year average.

Gervais said low interest rates also have both short- and long-term effects on farm equipment sales. Continued low interest rates should boost sales, especially of larger equipment.

To view the FCC Farm Equipment Sales Report and video, visit www.fcc.ca/FarmEquipmentSales.
Published in Corporate News
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