Brenna Mahoney is the General Manager at Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), where she works to advocate for Manitoban farmers. In this feature, she shares how her advocacy efforts focus on educational initiatives and digital agriculture solutions to support the sustainability and competitiveness of the agriculture sector. 

Describe your job in one-to-two sentences.

The focus of my job is to develop a team of dynamic leaders so that we can collectively advocate for Manitoba farmers. We ensure farmers’ voices are heard, and help to foster a prosperous future for all through leadership, transparency, and recognition of their invaluable contributions.

Did you grow up in an agriculture or urban environment?

I grew up in rural communities as a child but have spent the majority of my life living in Winnipeg. The beauty of living in Manitoba is the fact that we are surrounded by agriculture, including in the city as many people who work in agriculture also live in Winnipeg! 

What brought you to your current role?

I was looking to find a role where I could lead my own team, as well as advance priorities for the agriculture sector. In my previous role at Cereals Canada, I always loved working with farmers across the country, so I was happy when the role at KAP came up as it allowed me to serve farmers in my own home province.

How does digital agriculture or agtech play a role in your current job?

In my role as the General Manager of a lobby association, I’m deeply involved in ensuring that farmers have access to cutting-edge digital agriculture tools, such as drones for pesticide management. This requires advocacy efforts that help shape favorable policies and regulations, educational initiatives to empower farmers with knowledge, and fostering partnerships to facilitate technology adoption. We work to address barriers to access and affordability, ensure regulatory compliance, and support research and innovation in the field. Ultimately, our mission is to empower farmers of all sizes to leverage digital solutions effectively, and contribute to the sustainability and competitiveness of the agriculture industry.

What’s your favourite part about working in digital agriculture and agri-food?

My favourite aspect of working in digital agriculture and agri-food is witnessing the transformative impact these technologies have on the industry. It’s incredibly rewarding to see how innovations like precision farming, IoT devices, and data analytics are revolutionizing traditional farming practices, leading to increased efficiency, sustainability, and productivity. Being at the forefront of this technological revolution allows me to contribute to shaping the future of agriculture, addressing global food security challenges, and promoting environmental stewardship. Moreover, I find fulfillment in collaborating with diverse stakeholders, from farmers to innovative companies, and seeing how our collective efforts result in tangible improvements in how we produce, distribute, and consume food.

How would you describe digital agriculture to someone outside the sector?

Digital agriculture is bringing modern technology into farming to make it work better. It uses things like special cameras on drones, sensors in the ground, and computers to help farmers grow crops more efficiently. It’s all about using smart tools to help farmers make better decisions so they can produce more food while using fewer resources, like water and pesticides. Digital agriculture uses technology to make farming easier, more productive, and better for the environment.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in digital agriculture? 

Firstly, I would say, it’s an industry ripe with opportunity! With the rapid advancements in agricultural technology, there’s never been a better time to get hands-on experiences through internships or research projects. Connect with industry leaders to expand your network and stay ahead of the curve. The best part for anyone looking to get into digital ag is that they will be at the forefront of revolutionizing farming practices, and tackling global challenges like food security and sustainability head-on. 

Brenna spoke as a panelist at EMILI’s annual conference, Agriculture Enlightened 2023, along with Jennifer Flanagan (Actua), Mariead Matthews (ICTC), and Katharine Cherewyk (AITC-M). The panel addressed the challenges and opportunities for youth entering the agriculture sector, and ways to attract and retain talent in digital agriculture.

Agriculture Enlightened 2024 will take place on November 7 at the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg. Save your seat to be notified when early-bird ticket registration opens up!

This profile is part of EMILI’s This is Agriculture series, highlighting talented and diverse individuals across the digital agriculture sector. While individuals working in agriculture come from a variety of backgrounds, they share a common interest in growing and strengthening Canadian agriculture to ensure an environmentally and economically sustainable future for generations to come.