Precision farming — encompassing field imagery, soil and elevation maps, variable rate crop inputs, guidance and the creation of field management zones — has been, arguably, the technology that has chugged along, rather than taken off.
Depending on who you ask, widespread adoption of a full suite of precision agriculture options has been held up by any number of challenges. From older equipment and compatibility issues, to costs, to lack of clear ROI, and knowledge gaps, there’s no shortage of reasons why farm-wide adoption has been lacklustre at best.
Just last week, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada released results of a survey conducted earlier this year that looked at not just the current rate of adoption of precision agriculture in Western Canada, but also the possible barriers to further adoption.
What’s abundantly clear from the report is that while cost is always top of mind for farmers, it’s actually Internet access and speed that ranks as a top barrier, followed closely by a lack of knowledgable people involved.
Broadband access is an infrastructure issue, but what about education and training? Many within the industry are pointing to a glaring gap in current curriculum offerings at Canadian college and universities, nearly from coast to coast. As for provincial extension, Ontario has a precision farming specialist on staff, but public experts are few and far between.
What’s more, both provincial and federal governments have singled out agriculture as a future driver of GDP, innovation, and advancement — a shining bright spot amid dim prospects — and yet, these same governments are either cutting funding and budgets for agriculture, or remaining so vague on what happens next that no one is quite sure what to expect.
In the coming week, we’ll explore how colleges and universities are adapting and evolving programming to better reflect what’s happening in the field, what the industry needs, and how agriculture ensures it has the most qualified people leading the industry to stay current and push the boundaries of what’s possible in farming.