2023 was a year of innovation and collaboration at EMILI. With the end of the year in sight, we’re looking back and reflecting on our favourite moments. Here are some EMILI highlights from 2023.
We tested and validated technology solutions
2023 marks our first season at Innovation Farms, a 5,500 acre, fully-sensored seed farm that demonstrates the productivity and sustainability of new, leading edge agricultural technologies. In the past year we’ve partnered with over 20 private sector collaborators to test and validate their technology. Highlights include:
- installing 47 IoT sensors across Innovation Farms to send live data directly to our phones and devices from METOS® weather stations, Sentek soil probes, CropVIEW® crop cameras, iSCOUT® insect traps, and an Ukko weather station. This provides in-the-moment insights into crop heath and yield throughout the season;
- using AgExpert Field and Accounting software, to gain valuable insights as part of our testing, research, and technology development. For example, historical data input into AgExpert Field provides a low-touch way to estimate soil organic carbon which one of our on-farm projects is exploring; and
- joining the Pan-Canadian Smart Farm Network in spring 2023 to increase EMILI’s capacity to foster collaboration among researchers, producers, industry partners, and other stakeholders nationwide to drive innovative projects that address critical issues in ag tech development and adoption.
We empowered entrepreneurs
Canadian organizations and entrepreneurs, many of them located here in the prairies, are recognized as world leaders in digital agriculture and are poised to play a major role in increasing the productivity and sustainability of our agriculture food systems. Providing early stage entrepreneurs with financial support and guidance is an important way to increase the speed of innovation, accelerate technology adoption, create new jobs, and foster sustainability. Highlights include:
- inviting 10 ag-tech startups to our first-ever Innovation Farms Demo Day event to present digital agriculture technologies to potential investors, government funders and community supporters. Providing this type of support to early-stage companies not only gave them the chance to potentially access funding, but also resources that could help speed up innovation;
- providing financial support and guidance to 7 startups through EMILI’s Emergence Initiative Grant, as well as providing Geco Engineering, Green Aero Tech, and Inputs Pro, opportunities to demonstrate digital agriculture solutions at Innovation Farms in 2023. We look forward to hosting more ag tech innovators in 2024 (such as supporting N49 Genetics as they develop precision planting equipment to improve the resilience and yield of Manitoba crops); and
- welcoming experts such as Startup TNT’s Richard Tuck and Tall Grass Venture’s Marlise Hunter to this year’s Agriculture Enlightened Conference for the panel Ag Tech Capital in Manitoba where they provided insight into Manitoba’s dynamic capital ecosystem.
We increased collaboration across the ecosystem
Since launching our annual Agriculture Enlightened Conference in 2020, EMILI has brought together more than 1000 attendees made up of agri-food and technology experts, industry leaders, decision-makers, researchers, and students. This year’s event saw phenomenal growth with a 30 per cent increase in attendance. In addition to our annual conference, EMILI intentionally seeks out opportunities throughout the year to increase collaboration and innovation. Highlights include:
- welcoming more than 350 visitors to Innovation Farms this season for private and group tours as well as hosting Manitoba 4R Day alongside Manitoba Agriculture, the University of Manitoba, the Canola Council of Canada, Fertilizer Canada, Enns Brothers, and 4R Nutrient Stewardship;
- sponsoring a variety of community events to advance digital agriculture such as Soapbox Science Winnipeg, Harvest on the Crescent, Startup TNT’s Pitch Nights, the Manitoba Sustainable Protein Research Symposium, UM’s Science Innovation Showcase Pitch Competition, and Palette Skills Pitch Night;
- engaging in important conversations at a variety of events attended by EMILI team members including the World AgriTech Innovation Summit, INVENTURE$, Collision, AgSmart, Ag Days, CropConnect, PIC’s Evolution II, Manitoba’s Agronomist Conference, and Food’s Future (which EMILI co-hosts with City Age).
We expanded skills and knowledge
Since 2020, EMILI has hosted 17 Manitoba Digital Agriculture Tables (DAT) with over 405 participants. DAT brings together experts from the ag-tech and agrifood industry to identify skills gaps and solutions in digital agriculture. We are proud of the work taking place across the ecosystem to increase skills and knowledge. Examples of EMILI’s work in this area includes:
- working closely with Actua and Agriculture in the Classroom to deliver Explore Project programming to youth in K-12 that focuses on STEM, in-demand skills, and promotion of future career opportunities in the agri-food industry.
- collaborating with Lakeland College, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, The Community Safety Knowledge Alliance, and Assiniboine Community College on the development of our recently launched Fundamentals of Farm Data program;
- publishing a work-integrated learning web platform to highlight resources and funding opportunities (make sure to read our student testimonials to learn more about the impact of this experience)
That’s a wrap on 2023!
In addition to many great projects we’ve had the privilege to be part of this year, EMILI also broke ground on the new Innovation Farms Centre at Innovation Farms! We look forward to more growth in 2024, and continuing to work with our amazing partners in Canadian digital agriculture. The support we’ve received from PrairiesCan, Farm Credit Canada, Enns Brothers, the Family of Jake Enns Ag Innovation Legacy Fund, MacDon, Access Credit Union, Rutherford Farms, John Deere, The Province of Manitoba and others represents a big investment in the future of digital agriculture.
Here are some additional resources to learn more about EMILI’s work in digital agriculture:
- Read our 2023 report on Accelerating Digital Agriculture.
- Listen to EMILI’s Managing Director Jacqueline Keena on the Growing the Future podcast as she discusses why testing a product at scale is necessary to develop agriculture technology.
- Read about how we’re attracting startups and researchers in The Winnipeg Free Press.