A Precision Agriculture project: From Field to Fork, Councillor Jan Harder, City of Ottawa
As you know, I always try to look for and write about topics that may be of interest to you. This month, I want to talk to you about an important topic that has been occupying my time.
Over the past several months, I have been working on a Precision Agriculture project. What is Precision Agriculture you ask? That is a very good question, and one I had to ask many times, since it is a large and complex concept. Precision agriculture is farming by way of technology and precise information. Satellite imaging of fields, temperature and moisture sensors, and even electro-chemical stress detectors in the soil are examples of the new agriculture. Temperature sensors, automated machinery for feeding and milking and more sensors for detecting the health of livestock are examples of assisting with raising livestock. It also includes automated machinery, self driving machinery; robotics if you will. This is just a sample of how Precision Agriculture affects farming.
I know, you are wondering what the big deal is, it is farming, isn’t that what farmers do? Well, farming is a significant part of our economy; it makes up 6.7% of Canada’s GDP and supports 2.1 million jobs nationwide. Canadian agri-food exports exceed $26.1 billion USD in value, making our country the 5th largest agricultural exporter in the world. But more importantly, with growing worldwide demand for food, an anticipated 70% increase in the next 20 years, Canada is one of 6 countries in the world with capacity to meet this need. This presents a significant growth opportunity to expand on this capability by focusing on smart agriculture and food research, development and application to fulfill the vision that Canada will become the preferred global supplier of high quality, safe food and nutrition. So not only does this bring more jobs and income to Canada, we are one of the few countries that can help ensure the world can eat over the next 20 years.
So, what have I been doing? I have been working with a number of partners to put together a letter of intent for funding as a Supercluster. Working with Alberta, Niagara, Quebec and Manitoba, we are pooling the capabilities and expertise of people all across Canada to develop new and important advances in agriculture. Some of the people I have met with, worked with, and some of the current projects that are being discussed are truly fascinating. I am excited to be a part of the process to make it happen.
But beyond that, I have met with representatives from the food industry to discuss utilising some farmland as a testbed for new crops and farming techniques. I have met with members of our universities and colleges to see how projects they are working on can be assisted in improving the lot of farmers. I have joined together with MPs and MPPs to investigate new opportunities and ways forward for the agriculture industry. This is truly “From Field to Fork.
I am excited about these efforts, and as things come together, I will be excited to inform you about them too.