Liz DePapeComment

How #AgTech contributes to farm profitability

Liz DePapeComment

Inventures 2019 Calgary

Inventures 2019 is a network full of big ideas. This must-attend “unconference” for creative minds connects entrepreneurs and start-ups with venture capitalists, angel investors, service providers, and thought leaders to discover and share the latest in innovation—all with the beautiful Canadian Rockies as a backdrop.

Brenda will be on a panel to discuss AgTech.
Here is a Q &A leading into the conference: 

Question: What are the tech-enabled innovations you’ve seen that can make incremental improvements to farm profitability? 

Answer: The main limiting factor to farm profitability is not knowing costs, so farm management software that captures budgets is vital. Using software that goes beyond spreadsheets to integrate field records with sales, revenues, costs and yield is an unavoidable next step for many Canadian farms that still aren't using anything today apart from the financials their accountant provides.

Soil testing and plant tissue testing are also informative and underused. There's much debate around how to use soil samples to best inform cropping decisions, to the point it can seem pointless and untrustworthy. Research, dialogue and consensus around best practices in farm management record-keeping and soil/tissue analysis would be really helpful to have ahead of diving into the scoping of technology to support it. 

Question: Do you think it's possible to use technology to simultaneously improve farm profitability and sustainability? 

Answer: Yes. Soil testing has the potential to better inform cropping decisions. Testing grain for pesticide residues is vital to prove to the market that it's clean. It's important to test grain for micronutrients - the same ones that are deficient in humans. I think the world of agriculture is moving towards more of a pull nutrient food ingredient market and away from a push commodity grain supply.

Question: What supply chain innovations could benefit farmers? 

Answer: A culture shift that includes more women and supports feminine ideologies to participate more broadly and deeply in the development of new innovations. Modern consumers and our youth are urging agriculture to grow closer to nature. The market's demand is to return crops and livestock back to an acceptable level of nutrition and safety. It seems to me that women have a more natural sensibility around these concepts and untapped creativity to find solutions. It's hard to find them, let alone get them to the table, but as I've grown my network in the regenerative soil health/organic farm community, it strikes me that women have a stronger and equal voice in the management team, compared to my experience in conventional/industrial farm families.

I also think agriculture has a world of wisdom right next door on indigenous reserves that is thus far untapped. Racism in farm communities is preventing the conversations from starting, despite public calls for reconciliation across the country. 

I think there's great opportunities for organizations and investors that have risen above the sexist and racist culture that has characterized agriculture in the past by identifying the projects and innovations that are otherwise being overlooked by the traditional players.

Question: What types of #agtech would you like to see getting more attention and funding? 

Answer: I'd love to see small-scale, cost-effective farm implements to encourage profitability on a reduced acreage base and farm-scale grain cleaning and separating equipment to ease the marketing of intercrops.