Were the need to arise, Brian Tischler could simultaneously sip coffee in a café in Vienna, Austria while using his smartphone to steer a tractor across his 2,500-acre farm in Mannville, Alta, writes Naomi Powell at the Regina Leader-Post. Tischler, 55, is the inventor of AgOpenGPS, an open source software for autonomous tractors that has been downloaded thousands of times by farmers located in places as far afield as Lithuania, Africa, and South America. It’s a contribution that has won accolades from media and industry associations alike.
Yet when it comes down to the business of farming, Tischler is quick to shrug off its importance. “It hasn’t really improved productivity on the farm, and it hasn’t allowed me to relax because I still have to keep an eye on it,” he said. “It’s a lot harder than we think to apply technology to farming in a way that truly helps farmers. That’s the challenge.”
How farmers like Tischler manage data and technology could determine the future of Canadian agriculture, according to a new study from RBC researchers and economists. Indeed, the sector could inject an additional $11 billion into Canada’s economy by 2030, pushing its total contribution to $51 billion – enough to eclipse both aeronautics and auto assembly in overall importance, the study finds. But seizing on a “fourth agricultural revolution” that emphasizes data over manual labor will mean boosting investments in technology, addressing a looming labor shortage and bridging a gaping skills deficit.