EDMONTON, AB, May 19, 2021 – What if you could develop an app that would allow beef producers to better manage their cattle ranches? That reality may not be that far off. Dr. Graham Plastow, and his team from Livestock Gentec, are collaborating with Dr. David Wishart, from the University of Alberta, to develop the ‘Arm-Chair Rancher’ mobile app. The smart-device application will use the reams of data that beef producers collect daily on genetics, feedlots, and economics to make optimal herd and animal management recommendations.

The Arm-Chair Ranching project is one of eight smart agriculture programs approved in the Smart Agriculture and Food Digitization and Automation Challenge (SAFDAC) opportunity. Alberta Innovates funds SAFDAC, which supports the province’s agri-food sector – demonstrating social, economic, and environmental benefits. Eight projects will share $3 million in funding.

Smart agriculture technologies can help farms and agri-food processors increase productivity and environmental sustainability while also reducing costs. Digitalization and automation technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced sensors, and imaging and monitoring technologies can contribute to a more sustainable agri-food industry.


“The agriculture sector is Alberta’s largest renewable resource sector, employing more than 70,000 Albertans. Agriculture has been a driving force in the province’s economic recovery and will continue to lead economic diversification and technological innovation for generations to come.”

Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry


“The smart agriculture ecosystem in Alberta is a robust and innovative space as shown through these SAFDAC projects. The market size for smart agriculture is expected to grow to US$15 billion by 2025. We are well positioned to develop and expand the use of smart technology in the agrifood sector so that we can meet the world’s future food needs.”

Laura Kilcrease, CEO, Alberta Innovates


“SAFDAC is designed to help meet the challenges and opportunities in agriculture today and in the future. We are excited to partner with industry and post-secondary institutions to develop and bring new technology to market that will grow and strengthen Alberta’s agri-food sector.”

Natisha Stashko, PhD, Executive Director of Smart Agriculture and Food, Alberta Innovates


With the global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, finding new ways to meet the world’s food needs has never been more important. As a key producer in Canada’s agri-food industry, Alberta can have a tremendous impact on sustainably growing agri-food production through the development and application of innovative technologies.

  • SAFDAC’s 2020/21 round of funding launched in July 2020.
  • Forty-nine expressions of interest were received requesting a total of $20 million for projects worth $42 million.
  • 12 projects were invited to submit a full proposal.
  • Eight projects, at a total value of over $10.7 million, were selected to receive grants of between $39,510 to $500,000, totaling a combined $3 million in funding.


Project Title Institution


Edward Bork, PhD Using emergent technologies to pursue precision ranching of livestock on western rangelands through emergent technologies University of Alberta $376,211
Si Dingani Practice Manager Provision Analytics Inc $500,000
Godard, PhD An interactive farm operation planning software Verge Technologies Inc. $500,000
David Gust Rural fiber optic broadband network design and self-install drops Valo Networks Ltd. $39,510
Amina Hussein, PhD Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy for in-situ soil analysis University of Alberta $498,000
Graham Plastow, PhD An analytic app for arm-chair ranching University of Alberta $481,000
Chandra Singh, PhD Development of wireless monitoring and automated aeration control system for storing sugar beets in outdoor piles Lethbridge College $236,083
Brad White, DVM Development and validation of remote early disease identification (REDI) system for field application in commercial beef feedlot and backgrounding operations Precision Animal Solutions LLC $402,490


Dwayne Brunner

Senior Manager, Media & Strategic Community Relations