EMILI is collaborating with more than 20 organizations at Innovation Farms this summer, working with producers, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and academics to demonstrate, test, and validate agtech solutions at a Prairie-scale in a full-scale commercial setting.

In 2023, EMILI’s successes included welcoming more than 350 visitors to Innovation Farms, joining the Pan-Canadian Smart Farm Network, providing space for 25 agtech tests and demos, providing students with hands-on experience, and constructing an 8,500 square foot Innovation Farms Center to increase opportunities for EMILI and its partners to analyze farm data, demonstrate and test technology solutions, and host meetings and events.

As the 2024 Innovation Farms season gets underway, EMILI is collaborating with more than 20 organizations, has imported over 10 years of farm data, placed more than 50 sensors to analyze and compare data, and is hosting hundreds of visitors from local and international organizations to increase understanding and adoption of the innovative solutions being developed. All of these activities centre around three strategic priorities:

  • Collaborating to enable farmer-centric innovation
  • Advancing sustainable technologies and techniques
  • Increasing digital agriculture skills and knowledge

“We are proud of the work taking place at Innovation Farms,” said EMILI Managing Director Jacqueline Keena. “By testing and validating new technologies in a real-world commercial farm setting, we are gaining insight into what solutions work in a Manitoba climate and context.”

Collaborating to enable farmer-centric innovation

Being located on Rutherford Farms, a 5,500+ acre seed farm 20 minutes north of Winnipeg, allows EMILI to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of agriculture technology in a real-world commercial-setting.

“We are able to communicate with the Rutherford Farms team on a daily basis to understand their needs,” said Innovation Farms Manager Leanne Koroscil. “And because Rutherford Farms has given us access to a decade of historical farm data, we have a wealth of historical information to support our work.”

Photo Credit: FCC AgExpert

Using the AgExpert Field farm management platform allows EMILI to view the data flowing from various sources, and use it to share insights with collaborators to drive sustainability and productivity. Additionally, having an overview of the farm’s historical production records encourages 4R nutrient stewardship practices by tracking the beneficial effects from management changes over time.

Advancing sustainable technologies and techniques

Central to EMILI’s work with new agricultural technologies is empowering growers and others along the value chain to make informed decisions when adopting and deploying digital tools. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools and machine learning models provide real time information to predict crop yield and quality outcomes to optimize decision-making.

For the second year running, EMILI is working with Geco Predictive Weed Control (Geco) to assess the performance of proactive weed management techniques. When they began working with us on Innovation Farms in 2023, Geco’s product was being demonstrated on 3 fields on 3 farms. After working with us to test and validate the performance of their proactive weed management techniques, they were able to refine their system and are now on 95 fields on 55 farms.

Drone mapping technology demo at Innovation Farms

Using images of kochia and wild oats collected from drone flights and satellites, Geco has developed a tool to predict weed locations and detect emerging herbicide resistance. This will enable producers to detect, isolate and control herbicide resistant weeds earlier in-season while they are still young and easier to manage.

Increasing digital agriculture skills and knowledge

Rapid growth in artificial intelligence and machine learning is transforming the way we grow, process, harvest, and deliver food, allowing us to do more, and in a more productive and sustainable way. This provides a huge opportunity in the Prairies and across Canada to grow our position as a global leader in food production.

Yet a gap remains both for innovators who are unable to access the full-scale data sets they need to inform technology (such as training machine learning models), and for farmers who have a limited number of harvests in their career and are therefore understandably hesitant to be first adopters to unproven technology.

“By creating space on a full scale, commercial seed farm for innovators to test and validate how their solutions work in a real-life setting, and then sharing these insights to inform decision making, we de-risk the technology, giving farmers increased confidence in its capabilities prior to adopting it on their farm,” said Keena.

In addition to field tours that take place throughout the season, EMILI hosts private tours and events, such as a producer only day to create space for farmers to ask questions and share insights about what matters to them.

On August 1, 2024 EMILI is hosting Manitoba 4R Day at Innovation Farms in collaboration with Fertilizer Canada and the Canola Council of Canada. Throughout the day, field demonstrations and presentations will showcase how sustainable 4R practices (Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place) can be applied across the Prairies.

Visit Innovation Farms to learn more.