More data than ever is being collected in agriculture and the industry is challenged with how to best put the information to use to support profitable and sustainable food production.
To help Ontario’s processing vegetable industry put all of its collected data to use, vegetable processor Bonduelle has joined together with the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers and In-Green Valley Foods Cooperative to access project funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
Bonduelle uses AgPOD, a system it created to collect traceability information as well as manage seeds and contracts. Today, that system can’t process all the additional data that is now being collected.
Use of low-cost sensors means location-specific field data related to wind speed, air and soil temperature, rainfall, soil moisture, soil and tissue nutrient levels, insect trap counts and more can continuously be collected and transmitted in real time.
Drone technology enables location-specific assessments of field conditions including hot spots where pest or disease pressures can be observed and tracked. A lot of modern farm equipment tracks seeding rates, spray applications and harvest yields correlated to GPS locations.
“All of those pieces aren’t fitting well within our current system and we also don’t have a phone-based app for our in-field staff or connectivity on-the-go,” said Jennifer Thompson, agriculture manager at Bonduelle in Ingersoll, adding that there is also a need to be proactive so that the industry can meet future requirements for traceability and block chain system integration.
Bonduelle is working with DoubleLeaf Development on the new system to enable complete traceability from final product right back to the field, including everything from contracting to crop history like planting, scouting, spraying, nutrient application and record verification.
“Inter-connectivity is the current theme in precision agriculture, so if we can open some pathways to other systems, that will make growers’ lives easier,” said Rob Parkhill of DoubleLeaf Development.
This means a grower can enter their crop protection application information right into the sprayer, which sends it to the cloud from where Bonduelle will incorporate it into their system. This reduces duplication, boosts the accuracy of the collected information, and ultimately, will make growers more efficient, according to Parkhill.
The project includes creation of a central hub that can receive data from different inputs and have the ability to organize and store the data. It will be inter-connected to retrieve data from various sources and its mobile solution will enable on-the-go connectivity.
“This will let growers use precision ag information, which will be industry-leading in North America – in vegetables, no one is doing what we are doing,” said Thompson.
A truck tracking system will help ensure processing production flows smoothly, as well as reducing emissions. Tracking crop protection application will not only boost food safety, but it will also make crop scouting activities safer for field staff if they know what products were applied and when. The new system will also be based on geography to enable field-level decision making; the inclusion of weather information will provide added value to both Bonduelle and growers.
Funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership has contributed in getting this initiative underway and in bringing together the three partners into this project collaboration.
System-wide connectivity is expected by 2020.