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Home > About > News > Learn how Alberta is innovating in agriculture and forestry
December 19, 2023
Alberta Innovates supports and highlights innovation across Alberta.
Here are 13 highlighted stories of agriculture and forestry innovation from the last few years.
More than 10 million hectares of land in Alberta is currently dedicated to livestock grazing.
Precision ranching uses technology to keep animals in the right location at the right time. These technologies include GPS supported ear tags, neck collars, pedometers, and drones to track activity budgets and behaviours.
Precision ranching has the potential to simplify livestock management by deploying these technologies and allowing ranchers to continuously monitor their herds, leading to improvements in animal health. However, while these technologies are promising, they remain largely untested for commercial farming. To simultaneously support on-farm profitability and environmental sustainability, this project will evaluate a variety of precision ranching technologies to determine their accuracy in key areas such as tracking habitat selection and improving animal control.
This project was part of Alberta Innovates’ Smart Agriculture and Food Digitization and Automation Challenge.
Watching over herds is a gargantuan task: pregnancies, vaccinations, illnesses, and location all need to be tracked. Flokk aims to use technology to make the time-intensive, tiring work of livestock management easier. Their handheld device, with custom-built software, is designed to track everything that a livestock operation needs with a minimum of fuss.
From the start, Flokk has focused on making a product built for the realities of working with animals. It’s rugged, easy to clean and will continue to store herd updates until it can find an Internet connection.
While still in the testing phase, Flokk’s software is designed with local livestock operations in mind, with subscription services that allow the software to link up with federal and provincial agencies to streamline transportation and reporting data, as well as cattle breed associations.
Flokk’s software is designed with local livestock operations in mind, with subscription services that allow the software to link up with federal and provincial agencies.
Wyvern is a space technology company offering affordable satellite imagery to commercial companies. Wyvern’s hyperspectral imagery takes in a lot of information across the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s now possible to detect minerals, identify plants and reveal information that a traditional satellite photo can’t offer. Many companies already offer hyperspectral imagery via drones, but it can be a costly process. Wyvern’s use of lightweight cube drones in low earth orbit promises a more cost-efficient method. Now Wyvern is targeting farmers and agricultural producers with its services. The images it produces can help farmers keep track of their soil quality and even spot disease and insect infestations before they cause too much damage. The space company is also looking to future applications in forestry, environmental monitoring, and defence.
Wyvern recently reached an agreement with AAC Clyde Space, a Swedish orbital company, to launch their first satellites in early 2022.
As consumers become increasingly health conscious, their demand for reduced-sugar, high-fibre snacks grow. BioNeutra’s goal is provided high-quality fiber ingredients and products that meet this need. Located in Edmonton, Alberta, BioNeutra leverages science-based processes to develop and commercialize food ingredients for nutraceutical and mainstream food products. Fundamental to this success is the need to provide consistent, quality ingredients for formulators and manufacturers. Their flagship product, called VitaFiber® IMO, is a natural, healthy, plant-based alternative to sugar that’s only 50-60 per cent sweet as sucrose. Created through an enzymatic conversion of starch molecules, it comes in both syrup and powder form. A versatile prebiotic and dietary fiber, it is currently used by manufacturers on four continents to make protein bars, ice cream, yogurt, beverages, and candies.
Foodbev magazine named BioNeutra’s sugar reduction product, VitaFiber® IMO, as a finalist in the World’s Food Innovation Awards for 2021.
The future of agriculture are interconnected sensors, automated equipment, agricultural drones, high-tech machinery, and software all working to give farmers a full, real-time picture of what’s happening with crops, from planting to harvest.
Eight core partners across five provinces joined to form the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN). Their mission is to create technological solutions for the most challenging problems facing Canada’s agri-food sector.
Smart farms, like the one at Olds College enable farmers, researchers, and entrepreneurs to validate new technologies, demonstrate those technologies to agricultural producers, and educate the workforce.
“CAAIN is helping Canada transition into a digital economy and creating a highly skilled workforce for the future.” – Dr. Cornelia Kreplin.
G2V Optics, founded by Michael Taschuk, is at the forefront of sunlight science. G2V Optics’ engineered sunlight technology can do everything from telling plants to grow bigger, faster and tastier to testing satellites heading into outer space.
When Taschuk began his research, he found many artificial sunlight sources for testing solar cells were deficient with long-term stability issues, so he set out to invent the world’s most precise light-emitting diode (LED) solar simulator using an array of stable and different-coloured LEDs to dial up whatever frequency and intensity of light was desired.
Out of this work came two solar simulators: the large area Sunbrick, which can be combined in a much larger array; and the small area Pico. This led to the development of Perihelion for indoor and vertical farmers.
G2V has grown from a tiny basement operation into a technology partner for some of the most respected companies and research institutions in the world.
In Medicine Hat alone, about 8,887,240 kilograms of food waste goes into landfills each year. Local company T.R.A.D. Worm Industries is taking that waste and transforming it into natural, organic, pet- and kid-safe plant food. It offers homeowners hassle-free curbside food waste pick-up options, feeds it to worms, and the result is vermicast—a natural alternative to fertilizer. The company is unique in that it is a low- to no-consuming organization; everything it uses would otherwise be garbage. T.R.A.D. Worm Industries is part of the APEX Incubator of Southeastern Alberta.
T.R.A.D. Worm Industries’ placement design allows for seed protection, moisture retention, and continuous slow-release nutrient delivery for over two years.
According to the United Nations’ Water Development Report, agriculture accounts for 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals. Realizing the dairy and hog livestock industry was underserved when it came to water treatment technology, Calgary-based Livestock Water Recycling jumped in and has become the global leader in manure treatment technology. The company’s vision is to help livestock farmers increase farm efficiencies while becoming more environmentally sustainable. Livestock Water Recycling works with agricultural operations around the world to reduce emissions, concentrate and segregate nutrients for strategic fertilizer application, and recycle clean, reusable water.
Livestock Water Recycling is the global leader in manure treatment technology with over 20 years of experience.
Assessing the most effective deployment of farm equipment is a challenge for crop farmers looking to improve efficiency, increase productivity and yield while reducing costs. Verge Ag is developing an interactive web app for farm logistics using 3D digital models of farmland and artificial intelligence optimized equipment deployment. Verge Ag’s technology helps farmers ensure machinery is being deployed in the right place at the right time, reducing costs and increasing environmental sustainability. Savings total $12 to $14 per acre of cultivated farmland annually resulting in potential annual economic impact of $252 million across Alberta’s 21 million acres of cropland. Environmental benefits include reduced soil erosion and compaction thereby improving the soil’s ability to hold water, nutrients, and air necessary to support crop life.
This project is part of Alberta Innovates’ Smart Agriculture and Food Digitization and Automation Challenge.
Since 2013, the BioComposites Group (BCG) has grown to become a North American leader in the development of innovative natural fibre products. The company harnesses the mechanical qualities of common plants and trees, particularly industrial hemp, to provide solutions to the oil and gas, automotive and construction sectors. BCG’s zero-waste facility turns hemp stalk into a wide variety of hemp fibre and hurd-based products. There is a global market for natural-fibre products and BCG recently expanded sales to consumers in the U.S., Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
Recently, BCG was involved in a research project that used fibre from leftover hemp stalks to develop working prototypes of home and commercial insulation. BCG installed and commissioned the necessary equipment to produce the prototypes. Currently, the team is testing and fine-tuning the samples with a view to commercialization.
“As BCG grows, the new hemp fibre industry will grow along with it, producing wealth and jobs.” – Dan Madlung, President
Ceres Solutions uses by-products from breweries and agricultural operations to produce mushrooms. As the mushrooms are growing, the substrate is naturally enriched with protein, creating a livestock feed called Mycopro™. Located in Olds and part of the Central Alberta Regional Innovation Network, Ceres operates a sustainable, circular model, supporting local breweries, chefs, food processors, and ranchers. They’re also working on developing a spent grain removal service for breweries that will be more sustainable, competitively priced, and consistent than current methods of removal.
Ceres Solutions was granted $500K in funding to commercialize its technology at part of ERA’s Food Farming and Forestry Challenge.
Soil testing is an integral tool for many farmers who rely on measurements of moisture, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and particle composition to increase the productivity of their farm.
Dr. Amina Hussein and her team at the University of Alberta are developing technology for in-situ analysis of agricultural soil.
Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is a minimally invasive detection technique, capable of rapid elemental composition analysis with sub parts-per-million sensitivity. LIBS requires minimal sample preparation and provides high-speed, waste-free analysis.
Their portable LIBS-based soil sensor will eventually enable farmers to quickly obtain soil data without the time and expense of lab-based analysis. The goal is to develop an autonomous LIBS-based soil sensor as an alternative to conventional techniques.
Project partners include the University of Alberta, University of Regina, CropPro Consulting, Enersoft, and Boreal Laser.
The RC Farm Arm enables wireless tractor control for use with any stationary power-takeoff work required on the farm.
The device allows farmers to start and stop a tractor’s engine, engage, or disengage the power-takeoff and operate hydraulic functions. It attaches quickly and easily to existing cab controls, with no need for wiring.
RcFarmArm overlays your armrest controls and ignition key in minutes, giving you safe control of your tractor from wherever you need to be while performing stationary power-takeoff tasks.
Life-long inventor, farmer and millwright, Vincent Pawluski invented the RC Farm Arm. After he taught himself how to draw using computer-aided design, he now uses a state-of-the-art 3D printer to produce the arm’s parts and runs the manufacturing operation right out of his family’s yard.
“My whole outlook on things is if I need it, I’ll learn it, so I can do it.” – Vincent Pawluski