Tech update: When farmers go digital
By Andrew Yates | Toronto Star
The digital revolution is coming to a farm near you.
Lethbridge, Alta.–based Verge Ag has launched a software platform to help agricultural producers predict growing conditions and increase crop yields. It’s the result of a partnership with agtech software company Terramera, cleantech software venture i-Open Group, Simon Fraser University and QuantoTech, a venture that specializes in custom LED light, hydroponic and control systems, along with financing from the Digital Technology Supercluster.
The platform will create “digital twins” — virtual representations — of farms that can be combined with data to help farmers analyze their fields, crops, soil and environmental factors to optimize planning and maximize returns. NASA first started using digital twins over a decade ago as a way to model how spacecraft might perform. Similarly, Verge Ag’s platform aims to help farmers assess the impact of operational decisions, such as pinpointing specific areas to irrigate or fertilize rather than treating the entire farm. A beta version will be ready by September.
There’s climate benefits, too: Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions make up 12 per cent of Canada’s total emissions, according to the Canadian National Farmers Union. Platforms, like Verge Ag’s will help producers reduce crop loss and combat those emissions. “They can assess the impact of their decisions as it relates to reduction in GHG emissions, use of chemical inputs, soil erosion and soil compaction,” says Verge Ag’s COO Godard.
Where this is going: Farmers are under increased strain with labour shortages, increased operational costs and the impact of climate change on their crops and soil. New research from the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council says Canadian farmers lost $2.9 billion in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there isn’t a quick recovery in sight.
The team at Verge Ag expects to see greater automation.
“Until now, the industry has focused primarily on perfecting machine awareness and self-driving capability when it comes to autonomous agriculture,” says Godard. “While these are the fundamentals, we can help growers manage their land and equipment to efficiently and remotely execute field operations, enabling farming to be truly autonomous.”
Original Source: Toronto Star