98 The Beach

98 The Beach

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Grey County Holds Ag 4.0 Conference

Meaford | by Claire McCormack  

A conference in Meaford will look at how technology can keep local farms viable.

Photo from baygrowers.com 

Using technology to take your farm further is the focus of the 3rd annual Ag 4.0 conference in Meaford Thursday.

Grey County Economic Development Officer Philly Markowitz says Grey County and other similar rural areas are struggling with a labour shortage in agriculture and technology may be the answer to keeping farms viable.

Talks will cover how tech can help in the succession process of passing operations of a farm from one person to another, or from generation to generation which Markowitz says is a huge issue, "It's a big business problem to solve, it take years, the financing alone is difficult." She says three local farms will share how they've gone through the process.

There will be a talk about 'smart soils' and how farmers can use technology to make less impact and better decisions that help conserve their soil.

Markowitz says Block Chain Technology is what's used for bitcoin and there will be a discussion  about how it can be used in farming to track transparency and verification processes across the agri-food value chain.

Markowitz notes farmers have always advanced their operations through the use of new technologies, but the local need for automation is growing because of the labour shortage, "This is why a lot of our farmers, specifically our orchards in the apple sector are bringing in international workers who are highly skilled because we don't have a highly skilled labour force that is willing to work seasonally here because we can't afford to live on seasonal labour."

She says it can be seen in South Grey on some of the dairy operations where they're struggling to find people to work those jobs.

Keynote speaker Scott Shearer's talk will be called 'The Future of Agriculture.' Shearer is the Chair of the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Ohio State University.

Other sessions include:
    Block Chain, Beyond the Buzz Word: Applying Block Chain Thinking to Agri-Food
    Smart Soils: Using Tech to Support and Conserve Resources
    Farming the Next Generation: How Ag Tech Contributes to Succession Planning
    The Lay of the Land: Project Updates from Community Partners

There will also be tours of Sharedon Farms grain silos, Good Family Farms and Compaction Action demo, and a tour of the Bay Growers apple packing facility. Markowitz says Bay Growers is one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in North America, "When a crate of apples is dropped off outside the facility, it goes inside and never touches human hands," says Markowitz adding "They have abslute guarantee of food traceability on that. Everything is assessed using scanners and robotics." She says from weight to photographs and other data collection, the process ensures an apple is packed and shipped in the right place and time. "They can guarabntee with 100 per cent accuracy that they're not going to have inconsistency in their product. They're not going to have one apple that spoils the batch."

Tickets are still available. The conference is set to take place at Meaford Hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday November 1st.

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