“What do drones, robots, and soil sensors have to do with your morning cereal?”

This is the question EMILI Communications Manager Jennifer Cox posed to groups of Grades 2, 3 and 4 students while visiting classrooms alongside Managing Director Jacqueline Keena, Policy and Research Analyst Madison Marinic, and Skills and Talent Manager Rachel LeClair as part Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month, an annual celebration led by Agriculture in the Classroom Manitoba.

The kids were interested in learning how digital agriculture technology, including robots, drones, and soil sensors, are used to grow crops such as canola, peas, soybeans, wheat, and oats.

“In fact, the oats in the cereal you ate this morning may have even been grown on Innovation Farms,” said Cox pointing to an illustrated map of the 5,500 acre farm just north of Winnipeg where EMILI provides innovators across industry and academia with access to leading-edge equipment, technology, and production practices.

Illustrated map of Innovation Farms.

To help the students gain a deeper understanding of the use of technology in agriculture, EMILI Skills and Talent Manager Rachel LeClair opened up a box of ozobots.

“EMILI uses ozobots to demonstrate soil sampling, seeding, spraying, and drone operations. These are all jobs that take place on a farm and are part of the process of turning a crop of oats into a bowl of cheerios,” LeClair explained as the youth gathered around tables with specially designed maps.

After all the kids had a chance to code an ozobot with activities similar to what would happen on a farm, such as changing the direction and speed of a drone as it scans a field, and collecting soil samples, the group had a short discussion about what they learned.

“Did anyone learn anything today about farming that they didn’t know before?” asked Cox.

A young girl was quick to answer:

“Before you came to my classroom, I thought farming was just pulling plants out of the ground. Now I realize that farming includes a lot of technology and is really interesting.”

Another student piped up, “This is really cool! I think I’d like to do this as my job one day!”

“Yes, technology is allowing us to do a lot of really cool things and this is leading to really interesting new jobs in agriculture,” said EMILI Managing Director Jacqueline Keena. “When you finish school, look us up. We’d love to see some of you kids working with us in the future!”

Every March, during Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month, Agriculture in the Classroom brings volunteers to classrooms across Manitoba to learn about, connect to, and understand agriculture through fun and interactive activities. For EMILI, this is a fantastic opportunity to introduce youth to digital agriculture and provide hands-on experience with tools that connect students to the way technology is used on farms.