Protein Industries Canada (PIC) has announced the development of new spraying technology — that uses artificial intelligence to detect weeds and other crop pests while passing over a field — that is estimated to reduce pesticide use by up to 95 per cent.
The $26.2 million artificial intelligence project is being led by Precision.ai Inc., Sure Growth Solutions Inc., Exceed Grain Marketing, and the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan. The partners are investing $13.4 million into the project, with PIC investing the remaining $12.8 million.
The technology is expected to maintain crop yield, but with the decrease in pesticide use, will save farmers approximately $52/ac per growing season. Additionally, it can be retrofitted to upgrade existing sprayers, making it more accessible to different Canadian farmers.
Alongside the economic and efficiency benefits, the project is also expected to bring 120 new Canadian jobs within the next five years. Bill Greuel, CEO of PIC, says that this is a great example of how the superclusters are bringing innovation to farming practices.
“The effect this new technology will have on Canada’s plant-protein sector is tremendous,” Greuel says. “Consumers want plant-protein products that were grown sustainably, without sacrificing on quality or economic value. This is particularly true in international trade where, despite Canada’s reputation as a supplier of high-quality agrifoods, our products are facing increasing testing. Thanks to the work being done by Precision.ai, Sure Growth Solutions, Exceed Grain Marketing, and GIFS, Canada’s plant proteins are one step closer to being the highlight of plates of consumers around the world.”
Although the technology is designed by Canadians for Canadian farmers, it can, however, be used anywhere in the world, diversifying and strengthening Canada’s economy and providing benefits for farmers globally. Once the technology is fully developed, Precision.ai Inc, Sure Growth Solutions Inc., Exceed Grain Marketing, and GIFS will expand on the project. Commodities grown using the technology will be tested for international maximum residue level (MRL) compliance and protein content. Both streams of testing will strengthen international markets.
Terry Aberhart, CEO of Sure Growth Solutions Inc., says they have known for some time there were better ways to allocate the time and resources of their clients for pesticide use, particularly surrounding weed control.
“This combination of technologies will allow us to do this in a way that makes sense without sacrificing yield or quality, and having it built and tested locally will ensure its fit for our Canadian farmers,” Aberhart explains. “We are very excited to help change the way the world sprays and continue to support farmers to help make the world a better place for future generations.”