Olds College Smart Farm: A Living Laboratory

By Olds College Modified on March 15, 2022
Tags : Food & Drink | STEM | Tech

Olds College is on the cutting edge of agri-food development. Find out what makes the campus Smart Farm so special!

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Olds College Smart Farm: A Living Laboratory

Olds College, in collaboration with its industry and sector partners, is converting the whole of its farming operation to a Smart Farm: an interconnected environment through which the college is leveraging its land (2,800 acres), existing agriculture operations, and applied research programming, in order to provide a product development and demonstration venue to accelerate agriculture technology and agri-food development. At the same time, the Smart Farm serves as a cutting-edge learning environment for students, producers and the agriculture sector.

The Olds College Smart Farm is essentially a giant lab that provides the agriculture sector a venue for commercial scale applied research. It's attracting investment and engagement from companies ranging from multi-national ag and tech companies to SMEs (small and medium enterprises). It also provides our students with a learning environment centered on the future of ag and technology, setting the learning experience apart from other programming in the country.

The purpose of the Olds College Smart Farm is to:

  • Establish the most efficient way to collect and implement the world's best digital agriculture technologies for crop and livestock production;
  • Demonstrate increased efficiency of farming operations through implementation of smart technologies and practices; and
  • Utilize commercial and pre-commercial technologies for world class education, demonstration, and applied research.

Check out the Smart Farm in action:


In the end, Olds College believes that our focus on ag technology and the problems to be solved will serve as a catalyst for new thinking and leadership that inspires cross-industry solutions, innovation and strategic decision-making.

Smart Farm projects & activities

Primarily focused on five main areas of applied research — autonomous agricultural equipment, sensors, data utilization, technology development and validation, and regenerative agriculture — the Smart Farm is working towards providing producers with real-life applied research to help them make informed decisions about implementing technology in their own operations. You'll find details below, or you can check out all the Smart Farm applied research projects.

Autonomous agricultural equipment

Automation and robotics for farm operations presents numerous opportunities and challenges for western Canadian agriculture. The applied research related to The Raven OMNiPOWER platform and implements is focused on an evaluation of the technical, economic, and environmental "footprint" of autonomous agricultural equipment operation.

  • Comparison of "life cycle" field efficiency of autonomous equipment and conventional equipment for a variety of field configurations and conditions.
  • Understanding required labour and skillset required for long-term operation of autonomous agricultural equipment and comparison with conventional equipment.
  • Optimization of mapping tools and techniques to improve efficiency of making a field ready for autonomous operations.

Data

Smart and precision agriculture is heavily reliant on data. Research at Olds College is focused on developing and optimizing ways to collect, manage, and utilize on-farm data for evidence-based decision making.

  • Hyperlayer data concept development including generation and utilization of multiple layers of geospatial data for the creation of predictive algorithms, mapping plant available soil nutrients, and identification of yield limiting factors.
  • Using as-applied data to assess overlap reduction with sectional control technologies
  • Compilation of training data sets and specific data layers to validate and optimize novel soil and crop mapping techniques
  • Development of a user guide that outlines prescription mapping methods from different service providers and the corresponding file formats
  • Evaluation and summary of features for various farm data management platforms

Sensors

On-farm data collection relies on climate, soil, crop, and weather monitors and sensors. The applied research at Olds College is focused on evaluating the functionality, accuracy, reliability, and connectivity of pre-commercial and commercial sensors and understanding the value the data can provide to producers.

  • Implementation of a multi-sensor cluster to evaluate and compare performance of several types of soil, climate, and crop sensors
  • Measuring the effect of method of installing soil sensors on accuracy of soil moisture data
  • Validation of real-time soil nutrient sensors
  • Evaluation of a novel micro-climate sensor

Regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture practices support a more holistic management of cropping and livestock systems to improve overall soil health, biodiversity, and sustainability of food production. Applied research at Olds College focuses on evaluation of technologies that support and quantify the benefits of regenerative agriculture practices.

  • Evaluation of technologies for remote grazing management and quantification of benefits of intensively managed grazing versus conventional grazing on animal, soil, and forage health
  • Evaluation of novel crop cocktail blends on long-term soil and forage health

Technology development and validation

New technologies for agriculture require in-field validation and testing in the setting of an operating farm. Olds College applied research supports refinement and optimization of technologies and provides users with information on functionality, accuracy, and value of technologies.

  • Evaluation of variable rate prescription mapping using satellite imagery
  • Preliminary development of cattle facial recognition for cattle identification, lameness detection, etc.
  • Development and testing of an automated and remotely monitored in-pasture weighing system
  • Assessment of performance, accuracy, and cost effectiveness of optical spot spraying in western Canadian conditions.
  • Validation of a novel sensor and algorithm that predicts when grain reaches "average" dry during in-bin drying

And that's not all! There are many Smart Farm projects underway. If you're interested in agriculture, you're sure to find a research project that resonates with you!


Check out research projects at the Olds College Smart Farm

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