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TECHNOLOGY

Canadian farmers and ranchers use some of the world’s most progressive and innovative technologies to grow crops more efficiently and sustainably than ever before, producing safe, nutritious, affordable food. 

Nourishing Minds
How Technology is Shaping the Future of Agriculture

Technology and innovation are an important part of everyday life, and agriculture especially relies on technology within a land and labour-intensive industry to create more efficient systems of production. These advancements tackle challenges such as feeding a growing population (9.8 billion by 2050), economic success and sustainability.

This issue we chose to explore agricultural technology because it will help us reach new levels of efficiency. These innovations make it possible to grow and raise enough food for an increasing population, achieve sustainability, and save farmers time and money during production.

Animal Science and Technology

Advances in animal science and technology allow livestock producers to ensure top quality care for their animals, while producing nutrient dense proteins to feed the world. Scientists and animal breeders use biotechnology to produce healthier animals and enhance animal care, and to produce more, quality, nutrient rich food for people. Animal breeders can improve the breeding process through techniques like artificial insemination, cloning and genetic engineering.

Click on the link below to explore Ag in the Classroom Canada's snapAG; 
a series of resources that invite students to explore the hot topics affecting the agriculture industry today. 

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VACCINES

A vaccine is made up of all or part of a disease-causing bacteria or virus, and causes the body to produce its own defence system to fight infection.

Vaccination, also known as immunization, is a means of creating resistance to a particular disease in a human or animal.

When a vaccine is given to a person or an animal, the body’s immune system makes defence cells and antibodies specific for whatever disease the vaccine is protecting against. The defence cells and antibodies are then "stored" for future use to protect against illness when exposure to that disease occurs.

Vaccines keep animals healthy, protect animal welfare, prevent disease and reduce the need for antibiotics. Vaccinating animals also prevents the spread of certain diseases from animals to humans.

 

Farmers and consumers benefit from vaccines because having healthy animals results in having safer and better quality food products (e.g., meat, milk).

In both animal medicine and human medicine, the first line of defence is PREVENTION. Vaccines help prevent diseases, thereby reducing the need for both people and animals to be given antibiotics.

 

Many diseases do not yet have vaccinations available; however, research to develop vaccines for various diseases is ongoing.

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antibiotics

Antibiotics are drugs used for treating or preventing infections caused by bacteria in both humans and animals. Antibiotics can also help limit the spread of disease.

Why do farmers and ranchers use antibiotics?

  • DISEASE TREATMENT

  • DISEASE PREVENTION

  • NUTRITIONAL EFFICIENCY

  • DISEASE CONTROL

Antibiotics help maintain animal health, which ensures the existence of a safe food supply for consumers and the prevention of potential food safety problems.

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Certain types of antibiotics may be used by both humans and animals. Antibiotics of very high importance in human medicine, such as drugs prescribed for tuberculosis (TB), are seldom used to treat animals. Ionophores are not used in human medicine. They work only on bacteria and certain parasites found in the stomachs of animals, and have no effect on disease-causing bacteria affecting humans.

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BREEDING

A breed is an animal with a distinctive look, behaviour and other characteristics that distinguish it from another animal of the same species. Just as there are different breeds of dogs, there are also various breeds of beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, etc. Some farmers specialize in particular breeds because of that breed’s traits.

Selective Breeding

Farmers have been breeding animals for years through selective breeding in attempts to build a herd of animals that are healthier and more productive. This involves selecting parents that have one or more desirable characteristics that farmers hope offspring will inherit. 

Genetic Selection

Genetic selection techniques have been developed to identify and isolate the makeup of genes for desirable traits such as meat production or disease resistance.

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Because of genetic selection, Canadian farmers have a national dairy herd that is considered to be among the highest level of genetic quality in the world.

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Plant Science and Technology

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In recent years, an array of new technologies is propelling plant science in exciting directions and facilitating the integration of data across multiple scales. These tools come at a critical time. With an expanding global population and the need to provide food in sustainable ways, we as a civilization will be asking more of plants and plant biologists than ever before. Click on the snapAG link below to explore a series of resources that invite students to explore the hot topics affecting the agriculture industry today. 

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Canadians have more choices and pay some of the lowest prices in the world for FOOD — thanks in part to the plant science technologies farmers use, from pesticides to plant biotechnology.

PLANT BREEDING

Today’s plant breeders use precise genetic engineering tools to achieve benefits such as resistance to certain insects and disease, enhanced nutritional value and reduced food waste. Study the image to the right from 'GMO Answers' to learn more about GMO's and other forms of plant breeding, then click the link below to dive deeper into the topic.

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PESTICIDES

PESTICIDES are substances used to manage pests by killing or repelling them. Pests can be insects, plants, rodents, diseases.

Types of PESTICIDES include:

HERBICIDES

INSECTICIDES

FUNGICIDES

RODENTICIDES

Each type of pesticide is developed to target a certain pest or group/type of pest. For example, broadleaf herbicide only kills weeds with broad leaves (e.g., sowthistle, Canada thistle and dandelion) and not grassy weeds (e.g, brome grass, foxtail and other grasses).

Pesticides and the Environment

The Environmental Assessment Division of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada (PMRA) is responsible for reviewing information about the environmental effects of ingredients contained in each pesticide.

 

An important product characteristic that is considered before a pesticide is approved is its half-life, the measurement used to determine how long a pesticide will remain in the environment, or the amount of time it takes for the volume of the pesticide to be reduced by half. The majority of pesticides have a half-life of several days or, in some cases, hours.

Wetlands and wildlife are part of a farm ecosystem. Farms and the natural environment work together in mutually beneficial ways.

Farm Equipment and Technology

Technological advancements in farming are making farms more efficient and sustainable, ensuring the production of safe, healthy food now and into the future. Click on the link below to explore Ag in the Classroom Canada's snapAG; a series of resources that invite students to explore the hot topics affecting the agriculture industry today. 

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PRECISION 
FARMING

Tractors, combines, and other farm equipment have become bigger so that machines with one operator can cover more ground in less time. Technology has also allowed farmers to be more environmentally friendly.

 

Some equipment can now multitask, which means that it can do more than one job at the same time. For example, fertilizer can be applied along with seed at seeding time. Doing several jobs simultaneously reduces fuel usage and the amount of time that farmers spend in their fields

Today's grain farmers use sophisticated technologies to make farming more efficient and profitable, as well as safer and more environmentally friendly. Farmers no longer have to apply seed, fertilizers, and pesticides (inputs) in the same amounts across entire fields.

 

Instead, they can target specific areas of fields, minimizing the use of inputs and fuel while maximizing crop yields (amounts produced). This practice is referred to as precision farming. Precision farming uses technology to analyze crop fields for soil fertility, moisture levels and crop production.

New technology often requires new equipment, which can be very expensive. Farmers are adopting new technologies in varying degrees. For example, a farmer may use monitors and guidance systems but not auto-steer or variable rate technology. Technological advancements in farming are making farms more efficient and sustainable, ensuring the production of safe, healthy food now and into the future.

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ROBOTICS

Robotics is a branch of engineering technology involving the design, manufacture and operation of robots. They often use sensors and/or cameras to take in detailed information about their environment to function effectively. A robot is a computer-operated machine capable of automatically carrying out a complex series of pre-programed actions.

Agricultural robots are a branch of precision agriculture, farm management practices that use information technology to optimize plant and animal health and productivity.2 Robotics are expected to revolutionize farming in the future.

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Drones

Drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs),14 collect data on crops like grains (wheat, barley and oats) and oilseeds (mustard, canola). They use satellite imagery and remote-sensing technology to determine plant health and scout for harmful pests (weeds, insects and disease). They can also identify areas in each field that may need more or less nutrients (fertilizer), which helps farmers become more efficient and environmentally friendly.

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GPS GLOBAL
POSITIONING SYSTEM

A GPS connected controller in a farmer’s tractor automatically steers the equipment to ensure the most precise field work to minimize costs, energy use, and environmental impacts.

GPS connected livestock tags help ranchers manage and monitor their herds while out grazing on the pasture.

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Data, Devices and the Internet of things (IoT)

A GPS connected controller in a farmer’s tractor automatically steers the equipment to ensure the most precise field work to minimize costs, energy use, and environmental impacts.

GPS connected livestock tags help ranchers manage and monitor their herds while out grazing on the pasture.