Big data and digital farm tools revolutionize agri-sector

CANADA IS THE WORLD’S FIFTH-LARGEST EXPORTER OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS and, based on high production standards and safeguards, has an enviable reputation as a safe and reliable supplier in the global market. With world demand for agricultural products growing steadily, Canada aims to increase its agri-food exports to at least $75-billion annually by 2025. And with consumers increasingly opting for quality over price, Canada is strongly positioned to capture a bigger share of the market.   

Paul Thiel, vice president of product development and regulatory science, Bayer CropScience, says Canada’s international reputation in agriculture is based largely on the country’s food chain system that ensures the highest quality and safety of food production.

“The system is led by our farmers who demonstrate excellent management practices, attention to quality, and the stewardship of crop protection and input product use,” he says. “We also maintain oversight from one of the world’s top science-based and reputable regulatory agencies – Health Canada.”

Mr. Thiel points out that Canadian farmers are also early adopters of innovative agricultural practices that not only help produce more food and improve efficiencies, but also improve the sustainability of their operation, their land and the environment. 

“For example, canola, the healthiest profile of any vegetable oil, was invented in Canada, and we pioneered the practice of reduced tillage, which limits disruption of the soil and has been adopted in many other parts of the world and reduced the footprint of farming while improving soil health and minimizing erosion,” he says.

Canadian researchers also played a key role in mapping the wheat genome, which provides further insight for breeders to develop the next generation of superior wheat varieties adapted to environmental and consumer needs, and are advancing the development of pulse crops, especially lentils, which has made Canada a leading supplier of lentils in the world market.

Mr. Thiel says the next revolution in agriculture – the use of big data and sophisticated digital farming tools – is now underway.

He adds that platforms such as Climate FieldView, a leader in this space, utilizes farming equipment, sensors and imagery to give farmers powerful knowledge to make better decisions. This allows them to be even more efficient and sustainable well into the future.

However, Mr. Thiel cautions that while technology advances provide many new opportunities for the agricultural sector, there are also challenges ahead.

“It will be challenging for regulators to keep up with the pace of advancements in science and technology,” he says. “We also need to ensure that farmers are able to keep up with the growing amount of information coming their way and the training that is expected of them, and we need to ensure that our products can get to critical markets.”

At a recent event, Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, said digital innovation and technologies have the power to improve food safety, reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture and food production, and create good middle-class jobs. 

“Our government is taking action to ensure our agriculture and agri-food sectors continue to punch above their weight in a competitive global market while delivering good, healthy and sustainable food to Canadians and international markets at a fair price.”

It will be challenging for regulators to keep up with the pace of advancements in science and technology.
— Paul Thiel, 
vice president of product development and regulatory science, Bayer CropScience

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Tanya Camp