Category Archives: automation

Smarten-up your farm with the Internet of Things

By Lisa McLean

Kitchener – What if monitoring temperature controls was automated, and a grain bin itself could warn suppliers of low levels?

That’s the theory behind an emerging category of technology called “the Internet of things (IOT),” and it’s leading to better business outcomes for farms and food business across Canada.

Kyle Arbuckle, of Kitchener, Ontario-based blueRover, says agriculture and food is one key area of focus for the company, which serves clients across North America.

In agriculture, blueRover is developing new ways to give farmers cost-effective ways to be pre-warned on any non-optimal conditions on the farm and through the cold-chain.

“We focus on the business of perfect food safety and other business outcomes that will help business mitigate risk, increase compliance, decrease cost and differentiate their business amongst competitors,” says Arbuckle. Continue reading

Using sensors, block chain for better animal welfare in transit

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – A new sensor-based tracking system for livestock could provide peace of mind for farmers, food companies and consumers that animals are being treated humanely during transport.

Transport Genie monitors microclimate conditions inside livestock trailers and provides that information to users along the supply chain using block chain technology.

Block chains are a digital ledger of all transactions in a supply chain – information is passed along digitally as an attachment to the chain instead of through a paper trail and the permanent links between the blocks eliminate the possibility of data tampering.

“The devices currently monitor conditions like humidity and temperature inside a trailer, but could in future also track things like CO2 levels, acceleration and breaking to ensure livestock arrive at their destination safely, alive and healthy,” explains Kristen Celotto, part of the Transport Genie development team. “And if animals are injured or die in-transit, the sensors can indicate what went wrong and when.” Continue reading

Water on app New app to reduce water use for Canada’s ornamental plant sector

Jared Stoochnoff

By Lisa McLean

Guelph – It takes a lot of work – and a lot of water — to grow healthy trees and shrubs for Canada’s ornamental plant sector. The industry, which boasts approximately 3,500 nurseries across Canada, uses an estimated 190 million cubic metres of water every year.

But new research suggests this is two to three times more water than healthy trees need. And soon a new tool will be available to help nursery managers determine when to turn on –and turn off – the hose.

Jared Stoochnoff, a University of Guelph graduate student in the School of Environmental Sciences Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, is pioneering a new irrigation management strategy designed to reduce water consumption and mitigate the environmental impact of ornamental nursery operations.

“Because many nursery irrigation managers lack reliable ways to quantitatively predict a plant’s actual water requirements, they tend to err on the side of caution and overwater,” Stoochnoff says. “This results in unnecessarily high water and fertilizer run-off that negatively impacts local watersheds.” Continue reading

Better food through better data communication

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – Vast amounts of data are being collected on Canada’s farms through the advent of precision agriculture technology and the Internet of Things (IOT).

Many types of tools, equipment and devices gather data on everything from crop yields to how many steps an animal takes in a day. However, much of that data is underutilized because it’s collected by systems that don’t or can’t communicate with each other.

The need for better decision-making on farms through better data use resulted in Ontario Precision Agri-Food (OPAF), a partnership of agricultural organizations led by Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT) that’s developing an open agri-food innovation platform to connect and share data. Continue reading

Just label it

Paper labels and automation tech makes Essex County company an international success

By Matt McIntosh

Windsor – Product traceability is critical for food processors, and an Essex County company specializing in agricultural automation has been helping them sustainably improve for 27 years.

“Automation was almost non-existent in agriculture 30 years ago, but there was obviously a need for it,” says Joe Sleiman, founder and president of Ag-Tronic Control Systems, an automation technology company based near Windsor.

“We started by looking at ways to help local produce growers improve efficiency, and do so in a more sustainable way. Now we have clients throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and we’re in the process of expanding to South America, Europe and Australia,” he says.

Together with his wife Samia, Sleiman started Ag-Tronic Control Systems in 1991 to market and improve his own automation equipment. At the time, that included a height control system for tomato harvesters, tractor guidance equipment, and a plant watering system. Continue reading