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Hands-on Learning

By Alexis Kienlen

AgSmart, a new agricultural show starting this summer, will embrace the connection between agriculture and technology. The unique farm show celebrates its inaugural event Aug. 13-14, 2019, at Olds College. 

AgSmart is a partnership between Olds College and Agri-Trade, and the new show, which has been in the works for a year, is poised to become an annual event.

“Research and advice from our industry advisory committee indicated an educationally-focused event would best serve the industry,” says Dave Fiddler, show manager for Agri-Trade. “Farmers have been capturing data for a long time. Many of them, because they don’t have enough time or enough resources, they’re not making efficient use of the data.”

It is sometimes difficult for farmers to know the best way to use the data they’re capturing, he adds. 

“Technology is changing so rapidly that you have to be continuously on top of it and learning and adapting and finding out how to make it better and better,” says Fiddler.

AgSmart offers a chance for farmers to attack that knowledge gap. The event will feature speakers, and showcase technology and equipment for both livestock and cropping operations. Exhibitors will introduce farmers to the latest technology that allows them to capture, utilize and profit from data.

Stuart Cullum, president of Olds College, says AgSmart will celebrate the college’s focus on agricultural technology and use Olds’ facilities as a learning environment for farmers as well as students. 

AgSmart will feature indoor lectures and outdoor exhibitions – and a wide range of technology. This will include everything from software to unmanned aerial drones used in livestock and cropping operations, to autonomous farm equipment that offers the power to change how people farm. 

“It’s really an event that brings together a number of initiatives at Olds College and what we’re doing with our industry and our programs and also the interests of Agri-Trade in providing another way for industry to come together to see the integration of new technology and data,” says Cullum. 

Stacy Felkar, event co-manager of AgSmart, says there are two ways farmers can attend. 

There’s a full-access pass – available for $165 – that includes keynotes, educational sessions, outdoor demonstrations and exhibits. Producers who just want access to the outdoor exhibits and demonstrations can buy a pass for $20. There will be about 300 full-access passes available and about 2,500 passes per day for the outdoor exhibits and demonstrations. 

Concurrent sessions will take place on a wide variety of topics. Keynotes will be delivered by Rob Saik on the future of agriculture and food, and Greg Johnson, also known as the Tornado Hunter, will speak about risk and reward related to agricultural technology. Farmers will also be able to see farm technology and equipment with live field and plot demonstrations. 

“This is an opportunity for farmers to see things happening right in front of their eyes. There’s an opportunity for hands-on learning. There are all sorts of opportunities to engage and get into some in-depth conversations with the developers and marketers of the technology,” says Fiddler.

For example, Cervus Equipment will have a harvesting demonstration. The harvest will be simulated and data will be fed back to the tent, where attendees will be able to see how such data may be managed. 

Other technology featured will include the Maximizer Hay dryer, which can take a large hay bale down by 25 per cent, so the hay preserves its quality for a longer time. Other technology featured in the show will be brand new, and is not even available yet, says Felkar.

“Having an environment like this where people can see the technology at work is really valuable,” says Cullum. “It’s important for the industry participants who are developing the technology and want it to be used, and it’s important for the producers to see it at scale.” 

People who attend the event will also be able to tour Olds College’s Smart Farm, which uses equipment such as stationary soil monitors, digital weather stations, wireless grain bin sensors, and farm management software platforms to gather and store production data, enabling the college to make evidence-based profitable decisions, and demonstrate this technology for visitors. “Farmers don’t always have the environment to maximize technology, and they can’t do that kind of testing, validation and demonstration on their own place. But we can,” says Cullum. 

“It’s great for the agriculture sector to understand the problems, see the problems being solved and see how the technology is being utilized to solve that problem; and see it being demonstrated so they can apply it,” says Cullum. 

Cullum, Fiddler and Felkar are all excited about the new show and its possibilities. 

“I see the show growing and being a celebration of Smart Farm and what it is doing [for] the betterment of agriculture,” says Fiddler. 

Likewise, Cullum is excited about building an environment at Olds College where learning will come to life in a unique setting all driven by data.

“What I’m excited about is that we’re building an environment at Olds College that will be a real-time, large-scale demonstration of agriculture technology and the utilization of data for decision-making. That’s a concept that we’re building that will be available for our students and industry. This is one moment in the year where industry can be brought together to learn from each other and see what’s happening, but also to discuss and network amongst themselves,” says Cullum. 

Attendees will be able to experience a wide range of learning opportunities in a relaxed atmosphere. 

“The event is going to have everything in one package. It’s going to have education, entertainment and commerce. It’s a great opportunity to get out there and do business and learn and have fun,” says Fiddler.

The show will also be family friendly, and some booths will have activities for children. The Olds campus also has a swimming pool, if anyone needs to cool off with a dip. People who choose to attend the whole event can stay at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites on campus, or in the hotel-grade campus residence. Attendees can also camp on site. 

On Aug. 13, there will be the Great Albertan barbecue with live entertainment. Tickets for just this social event are also available.

The new farm show fits the mandates of both Olds College and Agri-Trade. Agri-Trade wants to pursue learning opportunities and engage youth, and Olds has the strategic objective to focus on hands-on learning, while supporting the agricultural industry through applied learning objectives. 

Cullum says it will not be a typical, formulaic ag show. 

“It’s intended to be a show that really responds to the needs of industry. We’re working closely with our producer community and our industry engagement group to learn about what we need to deliver, but also about how we need to continue to make the show better,” he says.

Felkar says the organizers have found so many great resources, they will likely have content for the next few years. 

“It’s interesting to pull it together. There is no shortage of organizations that want to be involved. It seems like it’s perfect timing,” she says.

A complete list of speakers and the full schedule can be found at https://agsmartolds.ca/schedule/.