The 2015 Canadian Farm Progress Show (CFPS 2015) that took place last week in Regina, SK certainly didn’t lack the large, shiny farm equipment and the displays of latest machinery at work that tend to characterize most popular outdoor farm shows. The presence of headers and grain bins predictably garnered much attention from the more than 40,000 attendees at the event, the largest of its kind in Canada. But this year I noticed a new trend – emerging, small, relatively unknown agricultural technology companies generated almost as much interest as the established names you’ve come to expect at these large scale events.
Our team at Granular gets excited to see more and more companies like ours at these shows, believe it or not, especially in markets outside the US. Competition fuels innovation which in turn demands that farmers adapt and change and continue to learn in order to stay competitive. And as Danny Klinefelter pointed out in a recent post, “everyone in the business needs to recognize that someone, somewhere, has a better idea or way of doing things, and they need to be compelled to find it, learn it, and adapt it, and continually improve it.” I spoke with a number of producers at CFPS about the role technology will play on their operations in the coming years, and this point couldn’t have been more apparent in these conversations.
There are some specific aspects of Canadian farm operations that make this region (beyond just its sheer size) particularly important for a company like us. On average, Canadian farms have a more diversified crop mix than their American counterparts, as a result of different agricultural policies and environmental challenges. More crops to manage means more complexity, more decisions to make, and more data to record and analyze. Structural differences in land ownership affect the way growers need to plan for and manage expansion. Because of foreign investment restrictions in large rural areas, a significant portion of productive farmland is owned by the farmers that actually farm it – and need to pass it on once they retire. And since farming is relatively new (100 – 200 years), farming families are still need of a system that can facilitate success planning and knowledge transfer to newer generations. And finally, you could argue that while variable rate technology is fairly advanced and widely adopted in the US, there’s room for growth in Canada, where manufacturers are still trying to get the right algorithms in place to deliver observable returns. Better IT and farm management software can help consistently help improve dollar yields, even in years when crop yields are low.
I’m looking forward to leading Granular’s charge in Canada, as we seek to make successful farms even better. I’ll leave you with a comment made to me by Saskatchewan producer and Granular customer, Kristjan Hebert, as we were walking through a maze of booths: “Farm shows such as CFPS really add excitement to the machinery side of farm business. However, with tighter margins, management precision and efficiencies are most likely to guide operations through these volatile times. Technology such as Granular will help lead management down the path of truly turning their operation into a professional business. In my opinion, this will lead to some pretty exciting times in agriculture.” Exciting times they are.