By Tim Kalinowski
Olds College wants to help the farmers of today prepare for the future of agriculture tomorrow by introducing to new ag innovation courses this fall.
The Precision Agriculture Techgronomy Diploma and the Agriculture Technology Integration Post-Diploma Certificate will allow students to come to grips with the cutting edge of agricultural technology, says James Benkie, dean of the Werklund School of Agriculture Technology at Olds College.
“We have seen such an acceleration of technology into agriculture our farmers and businesses are struggling to keep up and keep pace with that,” says Benkie. “At Olds College we talk about the practice of agriculture, and nowadays agriculture is still agriculture but technology is influencing the way we do it. And it’s going to be important for our students, as future farmers and future agro-business owners, to understand those components.”
Benkie breaks down what the two new programs will cover.
“We have got two paths right now,” he says. “One year is a two-year precision agriculture diploma. That means everything from applied data and analytics to data farming technology and digital farming systems. But also the mechanical and the electronic control systems. A lot of time in that diploma will be spent on technology types of problems and how it impacts decision-making for the farm.
“That’s one angle. The other angle is our post-diploma certificate in agriculture technology integration. It’s more of a deeper dive into technology. This will help students learn how to integrate and help technology to communicate back and forth to ensure the data being collected by producers and agro-businesses is being able to leverage to make different decisions.”
Benkie says while the agriculture sector is always keen to incorporate technologies which will enhance the bottom line and prove itself to be a good return on investment over time, in other ways the recent tsunami of technological innovation has left farmers at sea.
“In agriculture, we have a lot of problems we need to solve,” he says, “but also we are seeing that influx of technology coming into ag to present solutions, and some of them aren’t hitting the mark.
“What we are creating here at Olds College is ultimately a pathway to understanding the technical and operational needs of agriculture from a technology and data-collection perspective. And also I would suggest the next piece is really that exponential roadmap. I think we are really experiencing a time where were seeing a broadening of agriculture, and I think it is challenge at times for potential students, and our farmers in Alberta and Western Canada, to recognize the gap that is widening there.”
Benkie explains this point further.
“The exponential roadmap is really the impact of artificial intelligence and automation, and the effects that is going to have on agriculture. Our programs are designed to support the student through that learning journey to prepare them for the changing environment of agriculture.”
For those interested in learning more about these two new programs being offered at Olds College visit its website at oldscollege.ca.