Andrew Campbell is a dairy and grain farmer, Founder of Fresh Air Media, and agriculture influencer under the handle @FreshAirFarmer. We asked him about innovation in farming and the future of Canadian agriculture.
Where do you see the Canadian agriculture industry going in the future? How will it evolve?
Canadian agriculture will continue to thrive as a global food-producing powerhouse that is capable of meeting the needs of millions of customers around the world. Whether that be in niche markets that may be supplying a small number of customers with high valued foods, or large commercial farms that are helping to feed tens of thousands of people, they will all meet the needs of the customers.
How have Canadian farmers been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and what can they do to adapt?
The impact is variable, depending on the sector. Farmers that are producing products with a short shelf life like milk or fruit were impacted early on with sudden shocks to supply chains in which food service customers weren’t operating and retailers were seeing a sharp increase in demand. With a lot of that worked out, the big impact is those farmers that rely on a large number of workers, particularly migrant workers. With those workers late arriving to Canada along with new social distancing guidelines in fields and processing plants, throughput has been impacted and likely will be for the foreseeable future.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge Canadian farmers will face in the near future and how can they innovate to overcome it?
Farmers have been very good at innovating in order to meet the needs of their land or their livestock. A greater reliance on technology will be a big part of that, whether with software tools to manage fields and logistics, or with robots to help tend to livestock, they all play an important role at ensuring a a food product is producing as affordably and sustainably as possible.
Which technologies, techniques, or innovations do you think will impact Canadian agriculture the most in the near future?
Software and robots will be the big two. Software is already changing the game by helping combine satellite imagery with past maps that show how much grain was harvested in each square foot of a field, and soil tests that show what nutrients are already there waiting for a seed. All three help to make sure food production is more sustainable than ever. Combine that with robots and automated tools that can drive in a particular pattern in a field or feed livestock an exact diet at anytime of the day or night, and you’ve got an industry that will continue to strengthen its position as a global leader.