Network of Canadian smart farms to grow

Ottawa--The Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN) has launched a campaign to raise $5 million to take the next step in expanding a national network of smart farms and encouraging more farmers to join the program.CAAIN CEO Kerry Wright said attracting more participants to the smart farm program would build on the progress her company has already made in helping farmers adopt robotics and automation and data-driven decision-making for their operations. “We have invested significant resources to planning this initiative because it's a necessary step in the nationwide adoption of emerging agricultural technologies.”Based in Edmonton, CAAIN is a not-for-profit company launched in 2019 with $49.5-million from the federal Strategic Innovation Fund and assistance from Alberta Innovates. Farmers are invited “to submit proposals according to their schedules, rather than ours.” CAAIN will continue to accept submissions until it has committed the $5 million planned for this round.Smart farm projects are complex and producers and the small and medium businesses CAAIN is mandated to encourage might be challenged by rigid deadlines, Wright said.“We currently support a smart farm project that has shown tremendous promise in three distinct areas. First, it validates the use of advanced agricultural technology. Second, it demonstrates the functionality of that equipment to farmers, who can then evaluate the potential return on investment for themselves in a real-world farm setting.” It is also connected to post-secondary institutions that have the tools needed to train the next generation of agriculture industry professionals.At the recent Agri-Food Innovation Council's Spring Engagement, Wright said the smart farm network in Canada is growing and will aid farmers and processors to adopt innovative practices. “We need innovation from gate to plate.”Among the projects CAAIN is supporting are ones to encourage data driven decision marking and tracking the spread of pathogens in agriculture. As well, there is a project to determine the fertility and gender of pre-incubated eggs, which could eliminate the need to cull make chicks. It is also supporting a beef and pork automated processing program.CAAIN's mandate from the federal innovation program is to focus its funding on technological advancements essential to the agrifood sector.Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the federal government is committed “to supporting and investing in emerging agricultural technologies and CAAIN is leading the charge in the agri-tech sector. This innovative competition will benefit the Canadian economy today while helping to grow the next generation of agriculture industry professionals.”Francis Drouin, Parliamentary Secretary for agriculture, said, “Across Canada, farmers are developing and commercializing new technologies to help the agriculture industry increase productivity and competitiveness while building resiliency. The government will continue to support strategic investments like this one to assist farmers in adopting cutting edge technologies that will create better opportunities for them and grow our economy.”