What could Canadian agriculture achieve if it had 123,000 new skilled workers over the next decade?
According to RBC Royal Bank, all that new labour would help the sector realize its tremendous economic potential and could contribute an additional $11 billion to Canada’s GDP by 2030, making agriculture more productive than auto manufacturing and aerospace combined.
But this opportunity could be squandered, notes RBC senior vice president John Stackhouse, if the industry doesn’t develop and access a range of new skills. When it comes to data analysis and robots as well as traditional skills, Canada isn’t developing them fast enough, he says.
Stackhouse shared these insights last week with delegates attending the Ontario Federation of Agriculture annual meeting in Hamilton, Ont. In this interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin, Stackhouse discusses findings and recommended actions, which are feature in RBC’s recent report on agriculture entitled: Farmer 4.0: How the Coming Skills Revolution Can Transform Agriculture. (Story continues after the interview.)
To attract needed skills and workers, Farmer 4.0 outlines five key actions. Stackhouse says these include a much-needed ag skills strategy, a bold campaign to entice new workers, increasing emphasis on work-integrated learning, connecting R&D efforts to skills, and learning from other countries such as Norway, which is adopting these strategies and seeing agriculture exports flourish.
Stackhouse does acknowledge that for agriculture to reach its potential, government and others must play a pivotal role. He believes government needs to ensure infrastructure and transportation networks are maintained and upgraded to move products to market efficiently. The investment and financial sectors must also provide access to capital to drive innovation and make skills and technology directly available to farmers.