Grain Expo highlights technological possibilities for Sask. agriculture

The Agtech expert panel. From left to right: Dave Sullivan, COO of Global Ag Risk. Sean O'Connor, Managing Director at Conexus Venture Capital Inc. (David Prisciak/CTV News)

The second day of the Grain Expo at Agribition focused on the future of technology in the agriculture sector in the province.

The theme was optimism for the future at the expo Wednesday morning. One of the highlights was the official announcement of a partnership between the Agtech Accelerator program, Cultivator, and the University of Regina to help craft an environment where Saskatchewan entrepreneurs can thrive in the emerging sector.

“The University of Regina has a proven track record of producing industry and community leaders along with leading edge research,” said Ami Caragata, Agtech program coordinator for Cultivator.

“As we look to grow Canada’s top Agtech companies from right here in Saskatchewan through our accelerator, we’re excited to have the University of Regina actively involved.”

Associate Vice President of Research at the U of R, Christopher Yost, said the university is looking forward to the prospect of growing the industry within the province.

“This is a unique opportunity for all post-secondary institutions to come together on a nexus around Agtech,” he said. “Really bringing technologies to help producers increase their profits, increase their supply chains and all sorts of things.”

Later in the program a panel of industry experts discussed the issues and possibilities of the industry for Saskatchewan.

“From an advisor’s standpoint. We’re really good at telling the farmer what’s wrong but were not really good at telling them how to fix it,” said Danielle Wildfong, a farm advisor and founder of Danielle Wildfong Consulting. “We need to get really customer facing and farmer focused.”

Wildfong went onto explain that the agriculture sector in Saskatchewan will need a massive knowledge transfer soon, as many farmers are approaching the age of retirement.

“You’ve mastered what you’re doing in your field,” she said. “Now the younger generation is coming up and they’re going to have more access to tech and they’re going to have probably more drive to learn the tech. So, we’ve got a massive knowledge transfer that has to happen and should happen.”

Regardless of the steps that need to happen for the industry to move forward, the future is bright for the industry. Sean O’Connor of Conexus Venture Capital pointed out that Agtech allows Saskatchewan to be at the forefront of a new cutting-edge industry.

“We don’t have to fight over crumbs over this one,” he said. “This will start in Regina and Saskatoon and Winnipeg and Calgary and Guelph. Like we’ve got a new opportunity in the tech space to say the flag should be planted here, we don’t need Agtech to be built from Bay Street outwards.”

As the agriculture industry reels from a series of issues, most notably another year of drought like conditions, Agtech may possibly provide an opportunity to assist farmers in harshening conditions by maximizing their ability to grow in the future.