Étienne Gosselin | Agronomist | Journalist
Where is Quebec agriculture headed? Agronomist Yvon Therien, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Bulletin des agriculteurs, looks into his crystal ball to predict 3 technical and structural changes.
Trend 1 - Automation and computerization of practices
Milking and feeding robots have been operating on Quebec farms since the early 2000s (milking robots have been enjoying unprecedented success for the past two years), and we should be seeing the first driverless tractor operate on its own within the next 5 years. "Equipment that reduces the need for human resources will continue to be in demand, especially with the labour shortage," says Therien.
"The Dot Technology autonomous tractor invented in Saskatchewan is a good example. It's made up of a 4-wheel drive platform that hitches on to various implements, like harrows and seeders." The tractor, which is not oversized, will also have the undeniable advantage of reducing soil compaction and driving in the same places.
Trend 2 - Megadata and interpreting them
Some farmers are already using data generated by their georeferenced trip over the field in tractor to draw up drainage and levelling maps, to lime and fertilize at a variable rate. That's good, but there'll be more in the future, says Therien. "There will be increased data collection with satellites, multispectral images and numerous wireless sensors capable of collecting precision data."
"The challenge in the years to come will be in developing the artificial intelligence to digest this massive data by crossing it with other parameters like rainfall forecasts, input costs and the price of grains to facilitate decision-making and to produce cost-effectively." Economic performance will be added to agronomic performance.
Trend 3 - The agrarian model and farming
Land is expensive. Very expensive. "There will be fewer farmers who own their land. Some businesses simply won't be able to afford to buy or lease land anymore, given how scarce it is. We're seeing new models, where equity funds are attracted by the inflation hedge and steady appreciation of land values. These financial businesses buy land to re-let it to farmers who aren't the owners, but partners," says Therien.
The agricultural ecosystem is in transition (growth in farm size, model of ownership, new players). This state of affairs is generating debate, but also a quest for new solutions. At the other end of the spectrum, the Arterre provincial project (formerly the Banque de terres), which is now headed by the Quebec Reference Centre for Agriculture and Agri-food, facilitates networking between landowners who have land to sell and people of all ages who want to make a living from agriculture.
Salon de l'agriculture, January 16 to 18, 2018
Don't miss the session on the robot that will revolutionize large-scale farming, presented by the Bulletin des agriculteurs.
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