On Thursday, August 25, a team of EMILI employees travelled to Innovation Farms Powered by AgExpert (located on Rutherford Farms in Gross Isle, Manitoba) to learn about equipment, technology, and production practices.
Rutherford Farms President Rick Rutherford, General Manager Corey Park, Farm Manager Gueno Chicouene, and Sales Agronomist Emily Laudin generously shared their time and knowledge to provide EMILI with an inside look at some of the powerful data and technology used on the farm.
Precision agriculture and robust data lead to increased yields
Rick Rutherford, whose family has been farming in Gross Isle for close to a hundred years, provided an engaging introduction to the technology behind his farm operations, explaining how new innovations in machine learning and artificial intelligence ensure the sustainability and profitability of Manitoba’s agriculture sector for future generations.
Rick has invested in cutting-edge technology which allows his farm to be extremely efficient and site specific. For example, thanks to precision agriculture, each individual seed planted across his 5,500-acre farm drops into the ground in the exact position it needs to be. And because Rutherford Farms has prioritized data collection and kept detailed records for over a decade, they are able to look back and make comparisons in order to create correlations between current and past data which ultimately leads to good decisions.
It also enables innovation – which is where EMILI comes in. By collaborating with industry and academia, EMILI is able to utilize these resources to prove the viability of new technologies and provide a space where divergent technologies can integrate with one another to improve performance.
Data on the farm provides valuable insights
Rick Rutherford has a variety of weather stations on his farm to monitor temperature, rainfall, wind speed and direction. Soil moisture probes are also deployed across a variety of fields and crop types to monitor available moisture present in the soil for crop development.
This technology means that before he’s even had his morning coffee, he is able to open an app on his phone to quickly receive insight into temperature fluctuations, soil moisture, wind speed, humidity, and more to help him plan his day and make timely decisions, knowing exactly which areas, in which fields need his attention.
While a few EMILI staffers were new to agriculture and soaking up the morning of learning, Director of Capital Enablement Kolby Nichol was in his element. He grew up on a farm and works closely with start-ups and agri-food entrepreneurs to ensure they have the resources and support they need to be successful.
He points to a weather station installed by Ukko Agro which uses machine learning and data science to analyze localized data to create more accurate predictive analytics such as crop growth models, and pest and disease risk models that help growers and agronomists make the right decisions on when and where to take action.
Holding a Canola plant amidst a crop of canola and weeds, Kolby explains how the research plot he stands in front of was allowed to go to seed so that UWinnipeg researchers could develop a high-quality, labelled image database of prairie crops and weeds to train computers and robots with. By making this database publicly accessible to industry and academia, this research will have a profound impact on local and global food production for generations to come.
Hands-on learning and long-term connections
After the field trip, EMILI staff met for lunch to discuss their learnings. All agreed that the chance to spend time together, interact with the farm team, and gain insight into current and future innovations in agriculture was extremely valuable.
The experience reminded everyone of the importance of the work EMILI does to increase integration of intelligent technologies, empower people with digital skills, support scale-ups to grow in the prairies, and accelerate Manitoba’s growth as a leader in digital agriculture.