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Transforming Agriculture through Agri-tech Innovations: A Path to Resilient Food Systems

Many countries are facing pressing challenges in their food systems due to climate change, supply chain disruptions, and labour shortages. I recently had the pleasure of meeting a delegation of 20 prominent agri-tech companies from the Netherlands visiting Canada to explore opportunities for exporting their knowledge and solutions.

Evi Mustel, President of Mustel Group and Honorary Vice-Consul of Estonia in Vancouver. ( )
Evi Mustel, President of Mustel Group and Honorary Vice-Consul of Estonia in Vancouver. ( )

The Netherlands, despite being a small country in size, has emerged as a global leader in agri-tech, alongside Estonia, which also boasts a budding agri-tech sector. These countries are revolutionizing agriculture through technological innovations that enhance sustainability, efficiency, and resilience in the face of evolving challenges.

One of the key agri-tech advancements is the development of vertical farms and indoor farms, which mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for long-distance food transportation. Locally grown leafy greens can now substitute those sourced from distant regions, resulting in reduced carbon footprints. Additionally, these innovative farming methods facilitate climate-controlled crop production, offering enhanced resilience against extreme weather events associated with climate change. By adopting more compact supply chains with shorter cycle times, disruptions caused by pandemics and other external factors can be minimized as well.

Agri-tech also harnesses the power of sensors and data science to monitor crops and optimize resource allocation. Through digitally controlled technology, water and nutrients can be directed precisely to the areas where they are needed, significantly increasing efficiency. This targeted approach not only minimizes resource waste but also ensures optimal crop growth and quality. Farmers can make data-driven decisions by leveraging advanced analytics, leading to improved productivity, and reduced environmental impact.

Estonia has made notable strides in agri-tech, particularly in the areas of geographical information applications and livestock performance recording. The integration of various databases through Estonia's use of X-Road software enables easy access to information about specific locations, facilitating the development of web and mobile applications for farm management. These applications, such as VitalFields, eAgronom, and, save farmers significant time and contribute to substantial cost savings. Estonia's emphasis on performance recording for dairy cattle, with an impressive 95% rate in 2015, showcases the country's commitment to data-driven management in the livestock sector.

Even in British Columbia, local agri-tech innovations are making waves. Seimus, a BC-based company, has emerged as a global provider of cutting-edge solutions in the agricultural industry. Their contributions signify that agri-tech is not limited to large-scale operations; it offers opportunities for businesses of all sizes to embrace transformative technologies and contribute to a more resilient food system.

The future of farming holds great promise, but it also faces the challenge of attracting the next generation to the sector. Agriculture is not only addressing climate change and cost issues but also contending with a lack of interest from young individuals. By embracing agri-tech, which combines sustainability, innovation, and digitalization, the industry can present an appealing and forward-thinking vision. Engaging the next generation through educational initiatives, mentorship programs, and exposure to technological advancements can foster a renewed interest in the agricultural sector and secure its continued growth.

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