From the Editor: Innovation has the power to unify
February 4, 2022 by Bree Rody
I’ve found it difficult to write this issue’s editorial note for one key reason: it seems no two jurisdictions are experiencing the same conditions. With the latest wave of COVID, driven by the Omicron variant, the differences in terms of restrictions from state-to-state, province-to-province and even country-to-country means something as simple as having a meeting or taking a course doesn’t mean the same thing to any two readers. Some of you were able to attend expos and vote in AGMs this past month, and some had to do so virtually.
And sure, closures don’t limit your spreading or your on-farm operations much, but they can – and do – strain one’s ability to learn from and network with others in-person or delay things like maintenance calls. For producers, closures or restrictions on restaurants and retail also might mean that demand for your product goes down.
But we’re not at square one. In fact, the things we learned during the first year-and-a-half of closures and restrictions are still coming in handy. For example, webinars were not unheard of prior to 2020, but never before has the ease of a webinar been more clear. Through webinars, bicoastal meetings via webcam and digital peeks behind the curtain, we’ve become more collaborative and better innovators.
Of course, we tend to primarily associate innovation with technology – blinking lights and wireless machines, like the ones at Olds College’s SmartFarm (page 8).
But there’s also innovative ideas, like cattle farmer Stuart Chutter (page 16) who focuses on running cows who are low-input, easy fleshing and have a high grass capacity, which makes sense from a production and manure management perspective. In this case, innovation comes from a holistic approach, understanding how the components of your farm can work together in the most efficient ways.
And sometimes, innovation simply comes down to making a quick decision and changing the rules in order to get the right thing done. Just look at the historic floods in British Columbia (page 20), where whole highways were closed for days and weeks at a time. In order to ensure herds could be well-fed, officials had to make executive decisions – and key exceptions – quickly to allow cargo trucks to cross the border and route through the United States in order to make sure the herds were fed on time.
When we say agriculture is becoming smarter, yes, we mean the machines are becoming smarter, but we also mean that the people are becoming smarter. We are more well-informed on safety, on nutrition, on climate change and more. We can adapt (and have adapted) to changing circumstances at a moment’s notice.
Whether you’re an American or Canadian farmer (or U.K.-based – don’t forget to check out our U.K. update on page 14), whether you do liquid or solid spreading, whether you artificially drain your land or not, we’re all far more united than we used to be. •