Agricultural Innovation for Sustainability

“Every once in a while a new technology, an old problem and a big idea turns into an innovation”

-Dean Kamen

My visit to Canada has been an amazing one for sure. Travelling is top of my list when it comes to hobbies. Not only do I get to meet new people and faces, but I also get to learn and share ideas and also gain knowledge in all aspects. A few weeks ago, I was privileged to attend the Abbotsford Agricultural Tour together with my fellow QES scholars Sherlyne and Edith. It was a great opportunity to learn, network and socialize with other individuals interested in the agricultural sector. We also got to understand why Abbotsford is considered the Agricultural Capital of Canada.  The highlight of the day was meeting and hearing from the event’s keynote speaker, the Minister for Agriculture, Honorable Lana Popham. The four sites visited during the tour were the Bakeview Ecodairy, Valley food and farm collective, Westgen and the Vyefield Farms.

The standout observation was the application of innovation and modern tech in the farms. The visit to Bakeview Ecodairy particularly outlined the application and adoption of Agri-food innovation ideas and technologies that enhance sustainable farm practices. The Calf-Rail, the HydroGreen and the robotic milker, very cool innovations by the way, are some of the new technologies that have been adopted in the farm that in the end reduce the labour costs. The Calf Rail system used to feed the young calves helps improve growth rate and animal health. It also lowers mortality and mobility rates. The HydoGreen system is an automated hydroponic system that in only 6 days grows quality grass from seed to feed using light, water, climate control and minimal labour. The system incredibly enables annual production equivalent of 20 acres of feed in an 800 sq ft building. One of the interesting things we noted was the dairy cows having great taste in music and the increase in milk production from the classical music played.

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The HydroGreen system at Bakeview Ecodairy

We also made a stop at WestGen which samples over 300 dairy bulls globally per year and offer a complete lineup of dairy and beef genetics. The company has adopted innovative ideas and technologies in the improvement of dairy and beef genetics offering semen to dairy and beef producers. It was quite interesting to see how the cattle had mastered the milking process and how they knew where and when to make the next move.

The last stop was at the Vyefield farms where we were able to see how the first 32-stall Dairy ProQ robotic rotary milking parlour in North America works using innovative ideas and high-tech applications. Some of the technological ideas applied include the incorporation of 3-D camera attachment on the teat liners and the integrated wash and health monitoring system.

As we criss-crossed the farms, I kept asking myself one question, “What would it be like if some of these technologies and innovations could be applied back in my country Kenya?” How would these benefit the local farmers and improve on food security? It is necessary to come up with new ideas that would lead to increased production to sustain the increasing population. Some of the challenges in adoption of such ideas include inadequate resources in terms financial support in the acquisition of equipment and human skills more so in terms of research.

Moreover, there is need for an enabling environment for innovation in the Kenyan agricultural sector and this includes finances, proper institutional and regulatory frameworks, better economic and financial conditions. It is also necessary that innovations be sustainable and this requires they take into consideration the aspects of social, economic and environmental significance in the agriculture sector. In a nut shell with proper strategies in place, such ideas can be easily adopted in other parts of the world and this will enable sustainability in the long-run.

Minister Popham (3)

With the Minister for Agriculture, Honorable Lana Popham

References

  1. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, IT). 2013. FAOSTAT (online). Rome, IT. Consulted Nov. 15. 2013. Available at http://faostat.fao. org/
  2. OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). 2002. Benchmarking Industry-Science Relationships. FR. Available at http://www. keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/industry-and-services/ benchmarking-industry-science-relationships_9789264175105
  3. https://westgen.com/

 

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