Equipment
June 6, 2017, Charlottetown, PEI – As potato growers across P.E.I. plant this year's crop, many are using the latest GPS technology to guide them.

"I'd say probably 80 per cent of growers out there would have something like this," said Will MacNeill, owner of Atlantic Precision Agri-Services, in West Devon, P.E.I. READ MORE
Published in Planting
June 6, 2017, Kingston Ont – Farming is a complex business, and keeping track of everything can sometimes be troublesome, if not a bit overwhelming.

With this in mind, Kingston-based software company Dragonfly IT developed Croptracker – a multi-faceted, cloud-based monitoring system designed to give fruit and vegetable growers real-time updates on their businesses.

Croptracker offers an easy-to-use software package that monitors growing practices throughout the season,” said Matthew Deir, company founder. “Growers sign up for our system and can access all of their daily inputs from one central hub. It helps both traceability and cost saving.”

Croptracker highlights three key areas relevant to growers’ economic, environmental, and social sustainability, with food traceability taking the top spot, followed by operational costs and yield analysis.

The software itself is a consolidation of similar systems previously developed by Deir’s company, including Fruit Tracker, Apple Tracker, and Nursery Tracker. By combining these and several other systems, he says, Dragonfly IT has tried to make the software useful for all growers of all kinds.

He also emphasized that Croptracker is “literally grower-built,” being the result of “thousands of hours meeting with growers and learning what their needs were.”

The Croptracker cloud system allows growers to map how their crop is produced – what time it was planted, what inputs went into it, and so on – as well as where it came from. According to Deir, the software can literally trace each basket of product back to the field from which it was harvested, and potentially, even the person who harvested it.

Croptracker can also be used as a human resources interface, helping keep track of employee time and activity. There’s even a “punch clock” feature that can show growers who is doing what, for how long, and when. By being able to see how long it takes to perform different tasks, Deir said farmers can pinpoint where their costs are coming from, and if necessary, investigate why.

At the end of the growing season, the Croptracker system can also help monitor how good – or bad – the harvest was at different times and from different parts of the farm. Giving an opportunity for contrast and comparison, Deir said, means growers can further distil the potential sources of any yield discrepancy they might encounter.

Approximately 1,000 farmers currently have access to the software for free (their producer associations buy the rights on their behalf), but individual growers can still access Croptracker on a pay-per-package basis.

And it’s not just Ontario farmers who can use the service either; growers producing more exotic fruits in places far afield have also shown interest – most recently, for example, a New Zealand avocado grower.

“I never thought about [the software] working for that kind of crop, but the farmer definitely thought otherwise,” Deir said.
Published in Harvesting
June 5, 2017, Montreal, QB – The Agri-business Division of La Coop fédérée has just signed a strategic agreement with a major player in digital agriculture in California.

This easy-to-use online solution presents a comprehensive approach to data collection and analysis in crop production. Combined with the agronomic knowledge of the Agri-business Division, it will enable Canadian farmers to maximize productivity and profitability on their farms.

La Coop fédérée retailers will also benefit from this tool which will enable farmers and advisors to work closer together.

This partnership fully supports the digital transformation of the Agri-business Division as it provides farmers, advisors and retailers with innovative tools to assist in the management of their farms.

In addition to precision farming, the solution will include improved management of record keeping and regulatory compliance requirements at the provincial and national levels. Canadian agricultural farmers and retailers will benefit from the analytical capabilities of more accurate data from inter-connected tools such as satellite imagery.

This digital solution will also enable users to take charge of their agronomic planning in an efficient and sustainable manner from their mobile devices.
Published in Equipment
May 31, 2017, New Hamburg, Ont. – An Ontario company that developed lunar rovers for the Canadian Space Agency has adapted the technology for use on earth.

The resulting vehicle – called Argo J5 XTR (Xtreme Terrain Robot) — has applications across a variety of industries, including agriculture.

Ontario Drive & Gear Limited (ODG) is well-known to many consumers as the maker of Argo, popular all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that can travel on rough terrain through land and water.

The Argo J5 XTR is an unmanned robotic platform that travels on rough terrain in a variety of conditions ranging from war zones to underground mines — without putting an individual operator at risk. READ MORE
Published in Production
May 11, 2017, Grapevine, TX – Kubota Tractor Corporation introduces four new specialty ag tractors designed for narrow and low-clearance applications. 

The new M-Series introductions include the M4N-071, M5N-091 and M5N-111 narrow tractors, and the M5L-111 low profile* tractor.

Engineered to combine Kubota power and performance with versatility and reliability, the new M-Series specialty tractors bring more variety, performance and operator options to the orchard and vineyard markets. These tractors are available at Kubota dealerships now.

The new M-Series models feature updated engines, intelligently revamped operator stations and improved hydraulics.

The new M-Series specialty models also feature highly versatile transmissions designed to provide superior power and efficiency for the most rigorous specialty environments.

The M5L-111 low profile tractor features a telescopic ROPS frame, engineered for work in orchards or other applications requiring a low profile design.

The M4N/M5N narrow tractors deliver Kubota’s renowned M-Series power in tractors engineered specifically for work in vineyards, orchards and other narrow environments.

M-Series Power You Can Count On – And Then Some
Each new M-Series specialty tractor features a Kubota-designed and Kubota-built V-3800-Tier IV engine, performance-matched to bring Kubota durability to the strenuous demands of specialty agricultural applications.

The updated engines feature increased alternator capacity, larger radiator and larger diameter cooling fan. All engines include a common rail fuel system, intercooler and exhaust gas recirculation, while employing a diesel particulate filter (DPF) and selective catalytic reduction for minimizing emissions. Standard RPM memory settings for repetitious actions enhance performance efficiency.

The Kubota M-Series specialty tractor transmissions are performance-matched with each Kubota engine, providing versatility and increased productivity for demanding specialty applications.

All tractors are available with 12F x 12R speed, offering six speeds in two ranges, with an electric over hydraulic shuttle shift.

The M5N has the option of a 24F x 24R speed. The M4N/M5N comes standard with Kubota’s exclusive BI-SPEED turning system to cover more ground in less time, and both the M5N and the M5L have overdrive to save fuel. Creeper options are available to add even more precision to specialty tasks, with a 36-speed creeper available on the M5N models and an 18-speed creeper option on the M4N-071 narrow and M5L-111 low profile tractor.

Designed with Operator Comfort in Mind

A newly designed operator station features enhanced comfort while logging long hours in vineyards, orchards or other crop fields. Ergonomic steps lead to an operator’s station with increased floor area on the M5L-111, and floor pedals on the low profile tractor have been adjusted for improved comfort.

A redesigned cab on the M4N/M5N models features an updated dashboard with a multi-function, multi-view Intellipanel™ and LED cluster lighting. The M4N/M5N steering wheel has 40 degrees of tilt, making it easier to get in and out of the suspension seat. The control panel is ergonomically designed, with all main controls on the right side of the four new M-Series tractors. The M5N also features luxury items such as dual side mirrors and an optional air ride seat.

Improved Hydraulics

The new M-Series specialty tractors have more hydraulic valve options, ready to accept implements requiring multiple valves with different flow requirements. The new models offer two self-cancelling detent deluxe built-in flow control valves, with an option to add up to five total valves on the M4N/M5N.

Each tractor features a Category II 3-point hitch with easy adjust stabilizers to handle the wide range of specialty implements, and the M5L-111 low profile tractor’s strong rear lift capacity ranks top-of-class.

Standard Shielding on M5L-111 Low Profile Tractor

The M5L-111 utility tractor has a newly-designed solid-steel sloping hood and fenders that help reduce damage while tending to high-value specialty crops.

The SCR/DPF components are incorporated under the hood – an industry first – and steel shields for the fuel and DEF tanks are standard. The operator console, left foot area and clutch area are all shielded from heat and potential obstacles, adding another safety element for the operator.
Published in Equipment
May 10, 2017, Chatham, Ont. - AGRIS Co-operative, Wanstead Farmers Co-operative and Haggerty Creek Ltd. announced an aggressive expansion of its web based weather service, the "AGGrower Daily Dashboard" across southwestern Ontario.

This collaborative effort will see the current compliment of 80 automated weather stations across southwestern Ontario expand to a goal of more than 400 reporting locations when completed. Producers who sign up for the AGGrower Daily Dashboard will have the ability to have field specific climate information delivered directly to their laptop, cellular phone or tablet.

"Our web based weather service will assist producers in managing their crops by providing real time precipitation, relative humidity, wind speed, growth models on individual fields and notifications of critical stages during the growth cycle," says Dale Cowan, senior agronomist and sales manager for AGRIS Co-operative and Wanstead Farmers Co-operative. "The AGGrower Daily Dashboard will also assist in timely do it yourself crop scouting using integrated pest management principles," added Cowan.

To supplement the web based weather reporting network, Cowan is now recruiting dedicated "citizen scientists" to join the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow network, (CoCoRahs).

"These volunteers would be part of a larger community of like-minded people that would help support our automated weather stations with additional rainfall data to support our new initiative of the AGGrower Daily Dashboard program," says Cowan.

Volunteer "citizen scientists" must live in Essex, Chatham-Kent, Lambton, West Middlesex or Elgin Counties, have a keen interest and dedication to collecting rainfall and a smart phone.

Installation and training on the use of the special rain gauge is provided at no charge to those participating. For more information on how you can become a "citizen scientist" contact Paul deNijs at 226-626-1048.

This project is funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.
Published in Equipment
May 4, 2017 – Roughly $4 billion worth of apples are harvested in the U.S. each year. Startup Abundant Robotics hopes to suck up some of it with a machine that vacuums ripe fruit off the tree.

Dan Steere, cofounder and CEO of Abundant, says recent tests in Australia, where apple season is under way, proved that the company’s prototype can spot apples roughly as accurately as a human, and pull them down just as gently. The machine deposits apples in the same large crates that human pickers use. READ MORE
Published in Equipment
April 27, 2017, Mississauga, Ont — BASF has signed an agreement to acquire ZedX Inc., a company involved in the development of digital agricultural intelligence.

Headquartered in Bellefonte, Penn., ZedX’s expertise lies in the development of agronomic weather, crop, and pest models that rapidly translate data into insights for more efficient agricultural production. With this planned acquisition, BASF strengthens its digital farming footprint and further invests in helping growers take advantage of big data generated in farming and beyond.

“Growers are embracing cutting-edge technology and tools that can help them increase crop yields,” said Scott Kay, vice president of crop protection with BASF North America. “ZedX’s innovative platforms and strong intelligence capabilities will not only enhance our current digital services, but will also provide growers with critical data to successfully manage their operations.”

In a time where digital transformation is changing business, BASF aims to ensure that agronomic insights and recommendations from digital solutions help its customers make better, more informed decisions.

BASF is playing an active role in the digital transformation of agriculture and is constantly evaluating where and how to engage further,” said Jürgen Huff, senior vice president of global strategic marketing with BASF’s crop protection division. “ZedX’s experts impressed us with their extensive and deep know-how in agronomic models. We are very pleased to incorporate their knowledge into our offers to serve farmers’ needs through innovative products and services.”

Joe Russo, ZedX’s founder and president, pointed out that during a three-year collaboration, the partnership has already shown great results.

“Our modeling expertise, coupled with BASF’s knowledge of chemistry, has truly benefited growers and agriculture in general,” he said. “For example, we developed a model that gave the right window of application for a BASF herbicide based on important weather and environmental conditions.”

Weather conditions, soil temperature, windspeed – all of these factors can influence the performance of crop protection products. By acquiring ZedX, BASF will be able to help farmers use their resources more efficiently and sustainably. Additionally, the ZedX acquisition further complements BASF’s digital farming portfolio, which includes Maglis and Compass Grower Advanced. Maglis is an online platform that connects technology, data and people in a smarter way. It offers a range of integrated and intuitive tools that guide farmers from planning and planting to harvest.

“The smart use of digital solutions can open up all sectors of the economy to many new opportunities, and farming is no exception. ZedX is a great fit to our growth plan. We will strengthen our sales by offering targeted advice, insights and recommendations and by interacting more closely with our customers,” concluded Huff.

The acquisition is expected to be completed within four weeks. Products and solutions from ZedX will soon be available to all key markets. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
Published in Companies
For fruit growers across the globe, birds are a common bane, particularly for those seeking a quiet, humane and cost-effective mitigation strategy. Starlings are especially unsavory interlopers as they not only spread disease but often destroy an entire crop, forcing growers to walk away and leave everything on the tree.
Published in Harvesting
The 2016 Okanagan cherry harvest was plagued with multiple rain events.  Across the valley, growers were scrambling to hire helicopters as a method of blow-drying their crop. For a large company like Jealous Fruits, that bill can run to hundreds of thousands of dollars in a wet year, according to Graeme Ritchie, operations and logistics manager.
Published in Fruit
Drip irrigation systems have seen a lot of improvements since their invention in the mid 1960s. They are worth considering as a watering system, says Bruce Naka, an independent irrigation consultant who spoke to growers at the Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford, B.C.
Published in Irrigating
After fruit and vegetable producers put so much careful attention and effort into planting and tending their crops and orchards, they naturally want to minimize losses due to bruising, nicks and scrapes, temperature issues and so on.
Published in Harvesting
There is nothing like a just picked, tree-ripened apple. At a BC Tree Fruits (BCTF) field day last fall, I was offered a Honeycrisp the size of a grapefruit. It was the first one I had tried and it lived up to its reputation.
Published in Harvesting
February 8, 2017 – Walki, a producer of technical laminates and protective packaging materials, has developed an organic mulching solution based on natural biodegradable fibres instead of plastic.

Walki Agripap is made from kraft paper that is coated with a biodegradable coating layer, which slows down the degradation of the paper. Without the coating, the paper would degrade in the soil within a few weeks.

Walki’s new organic mulching solution has been the subject of extensive field-testing in Finland. The tests, which were carried out in 2016 by independent research institute Luke Piikkiö, compared the performance of different biodegradable mulches for growing iceberg lettuce and seedling onions. The tests demonstrated that Agripap was easy to lay on the fields and delivered excellent weed control. The results in terms of yield and durability were also good.

Following the successful testing and approval of Agripap in Finland and Sweden, the next step will be to complete testing in Europe’s main mulching markets: Spain, France and Italy.
Published in Planting
January 31, 2017 – Online grocer Ocado has shown off a soft robotic hand that can pick fruit and vegetables, without damaging them, in its warehouses.

The firm has an automated warehouse in Andover, Hampshire, where robots select crates containing specific items that make up customer orders. READ MOR
Published in Research
January 26, 2017, Pocatello, ID – Researchers at Idaho State University have programed drones to be able to identify potatoes infected with a virus.

Researchers say they've been able to find individual plants infected with potato virus Y, commonly called PVY, with 90 per cent accuracy using cameras mounted on drones. READ MORE
Published in Research
January 17, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – The HortSnacks-to-Go 2016-2017 Webinar Series continues on January 30, 2017, at 3 p.m. MT (5 p.m. ET).

“The webinar will feature Rebecca Shortt from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs,” says Dustin Morton, commercial horticulture specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). “An expert in irrigation management, Rebecca will discuss scheduling with drip irrigation and how to get the most bang for your buck from your irrigation system.”

There is no charge to attend the webinar. To register, call Dustin Morton at 780-679-1314 or via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

For more information on the HortSnacks-to-Go Webinar Series, go to AF's horticulture homepage.
Published in Irrigating

October 24, 2016, Elmwood, PEI – Up until this fall, Alex Docherty, chairman of the PEI Potato Board and a potato farmer in Elmwood, P.E.I., would do what most potato farmers on the Island still do today — hire rock pickers.

This year, he purchased a Spudnik AirSep Harvester, a piece of equipment instead that eliminates one of the more mundane tasks of the potato harvest — separating the rocks from the spuds. READ MORE

Published in Harvesting

October 18, 2016, Centreville, NS – A new, hand-held device reminiscent of Star Trek's tricorder scanning device is telling Nova Scotian farmers when an apple is perfect for picking.

The results are already transforming the province's apple industry. READ MORE

Published in Provinces

August 22, 2016, Alliston, Ont – The 2016 Ontario Potato Field Day, hosted on August 18 by HJV Equipment in Alliston, was a very successful event.

Approximately 250 growers, crop consultants and potato-industry personnel gathered in a friendly atmosphere to see the latest potato equipment, new potato varieties and the trade show. Potato growers from Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Quebec also attended the event.

More than 100 new potato varieties were on display, including for the fresh, processing and specialty markets. For the fresh market, the variety Actrice (Real Potatoes) caught the attention of many growers because of its attractive tubers with smooth, shiny skin. Actrice is an early, yellow-fleshed variety that is very tasty. Primabelle and Panamera (HZPC Americas) are two yellow-fleshed varieties that got good reviews from potato growers.

Among the russet potatoes for the French fry market, Alta Strong (Real Potatoes) and Pomerelle Russet (Pommes de Terre Laurentiennes) were well rated by growers. There was interest in Kalmia (La Patate Lac Saint-Jean) a white-fleshed, fresh-market variety that could also be used as a French fryer.

Double Fun (HZPC Americas) had the nicest skin among the purple-fleshed varieties. It also has very good culinary traits.

Among the trade show exhibitors, the Quebec company Lab’eau-Air-Sol demonstrated the use of spore traps for foliar diseases of vegetables. Douglas Ag Services provided the latest information on chloropicrin application to control soil-borne diseases. Displays by Gorman Controls (PEI) and GRB Ag Technologies (Ontario) focused on storage management.

Potato growers attend this important annual event to obtain practical, up-to-date information on varieties and the latest potato production technology. It is also a chance for growers to meet in a friendly, informal setting to discuss problems.

Published in Food Safety
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