January 19, 2024

Thank you to Jonathan Erikson from our Lacombe Agro team for his insight into farm management and technological tools.

The agricultural industry pursues continual advancement year over year; whether it be through scientific discovery and the improvement of plant genetics and herbicide chemistry, mechanically through new equipment and implements, or financially, the agricultural industry uses the best available data, research and ultimately technology to pursue the ultimate goal of successfully producing higher yields throughout Western Canada. Technology is woven throughout agriculture. Although beneficial in many ways, large scale technological innovations sold and invested in throughout Western Canada, such as self-propelled and unmanned implements, drones, and AI monitored machinery, like image-based spot sprayers, require significant financial investment with very little proven return. Technology can both be a hindrance and a benefit. Currently, technology is best employed as a management tool for day-to-day life and work on farms in Central Alberta. There are several opportunities to take advantage of cheap and readily available technology that can help growers better maintain and manage on farm operations.

Firstly, satellite monitoring and mapping apps like ‘Trimble Ag’ can be downloaded on a phone or computer and used to better manage field related data and issues. Trimble Ag utilizes satellite monitoring and GPS based systems to give up to date imagery to growers throughout Western Canada. Growers often find value in Trimble Ag as a tool to map out key points found throughout their fields. For example, growers can use Trimble Ag to keep track of sloughs,
ditches, weed pressures and other low yielding points throughout a field. If a grower finds a patch of wild oats in a certain area of their field, they can quickly and easily map out that area using their phone or computer. Furthermore, apps like Trimble Ag create opportunities to better manage crop inputs for future years; growers can optimize their rate of fertilizer placement by mapping high yielding vs low yielding points which can be accessed later when seeding, in subsequent years. Ultimately, Trimble Ag offers an opportunity to better manage data relating to field level problems and variances. To a similar extent, weather stations and climate related data can be installed and used to optimize farm management strategies.

Precise weather tracking is a valuable tool growers can employ to better manage farm related operations. Companies like Davis Weather Stations, partnered with phone apps like WeatherLink, offer growers in Western Canada the opportunity to accurately track and monitor weather and climate related events at their exact farm location. Without question, weather cannot be controlled. However, weather tracking apps like WeatherLink can promote better farm management strategies such as optimal chemical application, ensuring that specific rain-fast and heat related chemical concerns are avoided, and optimal harvest timing is achieved. Additionally, on-farm weather stations allow growers to track valuable data like moisture levels and heat stress throughout a growing season. Like the app Trimble Ag, installing a weather station can be utilized to better manage a farm operation. Likewise, the app Trello is a tool that can be employed by growers to efficiently manage day to day chores, responsibilities, and events.

Trello is a phone and computer app employed by companies worldwide to efficiently manage, make note of, and organize upcoming events, daily tasks, and other key responsibilities. Trello can be downloaded and shared amongst employees, families, and farms. Once completed, tasks can be checked off and removed from the apps work board. Farms could find value in the use of Trello to keep track of key responsibilities like equipment maintenance, animal feedings/milkings, and field work. Farm responsibilities and tasks can easily be mismanaged if they become disorganized. Trello simplifies daily responsibilities and allows companies to achieve higher levels of organization and efficiency. To end, the app ‘PictureThis’ is a tool that could be utilized by growers in Central Alberta to better manage weed related pressures.

Often, weed pressures/emergence can get out of hand quickly. If specific weeds are unknown or unidentifiable, growers can rely on technology, through apps like ‘PictureThis,’ to accurately identify weed/plant growth in their fields. For example, if a grower does a weekly field check and identifies a new weed related pressure but is unsure of the plant species, they can take a picture of the weed and upload it to their phone app PictureThis. The app will take the uploaded picture of the weed and draw from their data backed plant library to identify what the exact species is. PictureThis allows growers to have confidence in their chemical applications as it provides the opportunity to understand what the exact weed pressures are within a specific field. Furthermore, PictureThis can improve a farm’s agronomics by ensuring certain chemicals are or aren’t sprayed and improving crop yield as a result.

Technology can be a useful tool to growers throughout Western Canada when used appropriately. Minimal and low-cost technological developments, such as the apps Trimble Ag, WeatherLink, Trello and PictureThis can be used to optimize a farm's management, efficiency, and agronomics. These apps can be a useful tool for a grower as they continue to strive for improvements in overall farm level management and production.