• Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Innovations in agricultural technology shine at Ag Expo

He noted that growing technologies in the agriculture industry are on display.

At Tuesday’s expo opening, Fiddler stated, “You know, we all think of the red barns and the milk cows, grazing and green pastures [but] that’s not quite the image that agriculture truly is today. It’s very high-tech. There’s computers and auto-steer and autonomous equipment, so it’s changing.”

“People are using drones to check their crops; they’re not walking their crops so much anymore. Agriculture is evolving [and] this is where the latest and newest technology is put on display.”

FARMDROID

Mark Weber with Frontlink is one of the exhibitors at Ag Expo. The Ontario-based company imports equipment manufactured in Europe, including the FarmDroid out of Denmark.

Weber said, “It is the world’s first autonomous seeder and weeder. [It’s] 100 per cent solar powered, so no fuel, no chemicals and [it’s] 100 per cent autonomous, so it runs 24 hours a day in your field. It mechanically weeds everything for you.”

He noted that an autonomous solar-powered device like the FarmDroid is a big help in saving costs.

“The cost savings alone in not putting any fuel, not having to use the chemical and to know that you can place something in your field and know that it’s doing the job. If it has an issue, it’ll actually send you an email and you know that you have to go out and check on your robot. Otherwise, this is basically a Roomba for your field. It just goes back and forth all day, 24 hours a day.”

Weber added, “That’s one of our big problems in this society now is we’re burning so much fuel, we’re putting so many emissions into the air. This is kind of solving that issue right there.”

The FarmDroid moves under one kilometre per hour and has a wire around its base so if it runs into something, it will automatically apply its brakes and the operator will receive a notification email. Additionally, if the machine senses something in its seeder, it will stop, and an email will be sent.

Weber explained that a full charge will run for 24 hours and, “if it rains to a certain point, it will stop and it will send you an email saying that I’ve stopped for the weather and as soon as the weather conditions are good, turn me back on.”

He added, “If it was overcast that day and it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and this runs out of power, it’ll apply its brakes and as soon as the sun comes back out the following day, it’ll turn back on.”

Machines do come with a battery backup and the FarmDroid can be operated using a mobile app.

Weber said although it does take some time to get through a field, the FarmDroid saves farmers from having to manually ride the machine, freeing them up to work on other projects.

SKY DRONES

Southern Alberta-based Sky Drones highlighted its DJI AGRAS T40 drone. Spokesperson Loren Ginn said utilizing a drone like theirs helps reduce maintenance costs “enormously.”

He stated, “You don’t have tire tracks; you don’t have fuel you have to use. All you have to do really is charge your batteries and keep track of your cycles.”

“To replace one of these drones is a fraction of the cost to fix something on a high-clearance sprayer or a plane or a helicopter.”

Ginn continued, “You’re not putting out so much money for these really expensive sprayers. All you’re doing is you’re purchasing the drone, getting the training and then really just learning how to run it more and more efficiently every day that you use it.”

He spoke on the versatility of the drone.

“This drone can really do anything you want, whether it’s orchards, whether it’s open fields, it can do up to about 50 acres per hour, so if you do have multiple people and multiple drones running, you’re able to increase your efficiency by a significant amount.”

Ginn noted that the drone is user-friendly and “You only really need one person to operate this whole unit. I can lift it up on my own.”

“It’s very simple to use, very efficient, very lightweight as well. Even if you want to switch it out from regular spraying to granular spreading, that’s very simple and takes you less than two minutes to do it. So, very straightforward, very simple.”

Additionally, Ginn said the DJI AGRAS T40 can be used in conjunction with Sky Drones’ DJI Mavic 3M, the company’s scanning drone.

Ginn explained, “So that will scan your field and you can take that information and put it into the T40, so then if you wanted to do kind of like a patch spraying setup, you can do that with the two of them combined.”

BIOAGTIVE EMISSIONS FARMING

Bio-Agtive Emissions Farming, out of Pincher Creek, was another exhibitor participating in Ag Expo.

Owner Gary Lewis said Bio-Agtive’s method recycles internal combustion emissions from any fuel source into rich plant nutrition that is simultaneously returned to the crop environment from any mechanized piece of agricultural equipment passing over landscapes as a farmer seeds, sprays or harvests. Lewis explained that it empowers producers to gain free nitrogen for their farm.

Lewis said, “This is the sixth generation of our technology that takes the emissions from the tractor and puts it into a liquid solution, and it makes the black carbon go clear and that process helps speed up biology. We have to have a larger food chain behind our food to get more nutrition in it and what’s happening in modern agriculture is we’re synthetically feeding the plant and the plant ignores the microbiome.”

He added, “We’re taking the emissions from internal combustion and we’re repurposing it.”

Lewis remarked, “Without any fertilizer involved for the last 24 years on our farm, we have been experimenting with this.”

“Now, with our latest sixth generation, we’re producing corn, we’re producing canola, all these different types of crops. We’re finding that it’s far higher in protein and more nutritious for animals and animals are actually growing faster and milking more.”

Lewis added that the company is participating in the Musk Foundation’s XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition final, “standing in the top 200 teams worldwide and in the running for the top 20”.

A video showcasing the work of BioAgtive’s XPRIZE team can be seen here.

MERIDIAN MANUFACTURING

A major component of the Ag Expo is the opportunity for farmers and producers to connect with fellow members of the industry.

Rob Reimer is the director of sales for Meridian Manufacturing, based in Lethbridge. He said the company builds grain storage and grain handling products.

Reimer remarked, “Having our dealer network and all of our customers come to one event in a building like this is really good. As a manufacturer, we don’t direct sell, but we have a lot of contacts with the farmers, and we’ve built a lot of relationships over the years.”

He said Meridian has about 150 employees locally and, “We really work at adding more employees all the time and we really enjoy the Lethbridge community and the amount of support we get.”

“We always want to provide and support locally.”

Reimer added the ag industry is an important driver to local economies.

The 2024 Ag Expo concludes at 5 p.m. on February 29.

READ MORE: Ag Expo brings agriculture industry together in Lethbridge

If you have a news tip, question or concern, please email Lethbridge.newsroom@Pattisonmedia.com.

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