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Assessment of Ontario’s Capacity to use Precision Agri-food Technologies

Principal Investigator

Tyler Whale

Research Institution

Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT)

External Funding Partners

Ontario Agri-Food Technologies; University of Guelph; Livestock Research Innovation Corporation; Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association; Vineland Research and Innovation Centre Inc.; Niagara College; University of Waterloo

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.

Project Start

April 2015

Project End

December 2016

Objectives

  • Assess major initiatives on precision agri-food (PAF) in other global jurisdictions including emerging standards for inter-operability and research data sharing to help determine niche opportunities for Ontario or collaborative opportunities with other groups.
  • Determine the expected rate of growth in Big Data for precision agriculture for research purposes and the characterization of the data streams.
  • Evaluate protocols by which data can be stored, shared etc. such that they are compatible with security and global data standards.
  • Assess the hardware and software capacity resources available now and determine what additional resources are needed to address the need identified in above objectives versus the ability to leverage resources that already exist.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the leading groups in precision agriculture followed by the establishment of specific pilot projects to discover an effective, scalable introduction of PAF in Ontario for the benefit of the agri-food user community.

Impact

  • The understanding of where Ontario’s current and future use of precision agri-food technology lies will help to create a strategy and vision for the sector and allow the creation of a cooperative and trusted environment through which we can more efficiently pursue and implement precision agri-technology (PAT) for all agri-food stakeholders.
  • The development of a common vision to pull together the various groups and magnifying the importance of developing mutually beneficial ‘systems/infrastructure’ for the benefit of all key stakeholder groups (academia, government and industry) will allow all groups to have a role in forwarding the provincial agenda.
  • The development of lead ‘pilot’ projects that will address specific use cases within the ag-sub-sectors that will lead to the development of a hybrid data collection platform based on stakeholder need and more affordable in deployment of technology.
  • A key goal of the project is to facilitate the infrastructure/capacity building and collaborations in order to accelerate Ontario's adoption and development of PAT which will lead to efficiencies, improved management decisions, transparency, traceability and a likelihood of reduced costs (environmental and otherwise) across the whole ag-sector.

Scientific Summary

The agri-food industry is under intense pressure to grow more, manage risk and lower costs. As a result, there is a relentless search for operational efficiencies that can be gained through application of precision agri-food technologies (PATs). PATs can take many forms but broadly speaking they are technologies that utilize data to inform decisions in ways previously not possible. They result from unprecedented convergence between agricultural and food sciences, including genomics, on the one hand, and information technology, on the other hand. As a result of the rapid reduction in the cost of sensors, agriculture and food is now able to collect unprecedented quantities of data through environmental and phenotypic measurements often made in real-time. Agri-food enterprises and information technology companies will be working together to bring many innovative products and services to the agri-food value chain. Ontario has the potential to be a major player in this global market. To achieve its potential, the Ontario research and agri-food user communities need to be organized and driven to achieve. This application is the first vital step in a multi-year process to bring about systematic organization and collaboration that optimizes the use of resources to enable PATs to flourish in Ontario.

This project aims to examine the task of compiling and connecting complex Big Data for the agri-food sector. It has been identified that there is a need to engage competent hardware/software/networking experts to assess and design of a database platform. The platform is a combination of the hard and soft infrastructure that will be needed and its connectivity to the potential users. The long term goal is to develop methods to manage data and support its function as a tool that can enable the users of the information to make better decisions. The optimal long term result would be to enable Ontario researchers, industry and government to have access to precision agri-food technology derived data from which they can create decision support tools that will benefit all parts of the agri-food system – input suppliers, farmers, packers/handlers, distributors/wholesalers, retailers/merchandisers and consumers. The primary benefit is expected to accrue to farmers, that is, the production level of the supply chain.

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sustainability
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