There’s a new member of the team at Niagara College’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre. It goes by the name RoamIO Jumbo, and it is an advanced, rugged land rover, able to patrol vineyard rows with ease, helping farmers increase profitability or even save their crop from damaging weather.
This new addition, along with a complement of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and modern high-performance computing, have joined the team thanks to $94,000 in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program. The grant was part of a national funding announcement made today from Minister of Science and Sport Kirsty Duncan at Niagara College’s Wine Visitor & Education Centre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“On campuses across the country, colleges are pursuing exciting research opportunities and at the same time helping companies enhance their products and processes, bringing promising ideas to the marketplace,” said the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport. “With research areas ranging from advanced manufacturing to artificial intelligence, the projects being funded today will have real-life benefits for all Canadians.”
The Applied Research Tools and Instruments (ARTI) program helps NC’s Research & Innovation division advance its precision agriculture strategies and collaborate with industry partners to help them farm smarter. Precision agriculture provides solutions to cut costs, increase productivity, and to support environmental stewardship; and it involves using modern hardware and data in support of farm management practices.
An important investment into this specialized equipment will enable current partnerships to advance significantly, and create opportunities for new collaborations, said Marc Nantel, PhD, associate vice-president, Research & Innovation.
“We are so pleased to get this money to help us help industry,” said Nantel. “Sophisticated technologies like these will allow our farming partners to optimize their processes and produce healthier crops.”
The College’s array of smart farming technologies help farmers better predict weather, generate accurate forecasts for regions as small as a single farm field – all in a day or two in advance of harmful events. This can be the difference between life and death for the crops.
Reliable forecasting of damaging conditions such as catastrophic killer frosts, high winds, continued drought, or other conditions that might hit the farm, gives the farmer the knowledge needed to engage the best mitigation strategy, said Mike Duncan, PhD, NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges (IRCC) in Precision Agriculture & Environmental Technologies.
In particular, the RoamIO Jumbo will be outfitted with sensor capabilities to monitor weather and temperatures, and ultimately yield estimations in a vineyard. The smart land rover will also be equipped with cameras so it can be used to view the grape quantity, added Duncan.
The RoamIO Jumbo was developed by Korechi Inc., a robotics and automation company in Hamilton, founded by engineer Sougata Pahari.
“Korchechi was able to provide a fully customizable system,” said Duncan. “They are the perfect partner. [Pahari] understood exactly what needed to be customized, as well as what needed to be easily accessible to the students so they can pull apart the circuitry and program the thing.”
NC’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre team works with private and public sector partners to develop innovative solutions to address today’s challenges in precision agriculture, GIS, computer programming, sustainable food production, plant growth, horticultural practices, greenhouse operations, aquaponics, environmental management and renewable energies. For info visit www.ncinnovation.ca/specializations/agriculture-environmental-technologies-innovation-centre
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
- Rovers, UAS (also known as drones), and modern high-performance computing can provide numerical weather forecasting, decision support, farm management help, and actionable data – all with precision agriculture techniques.
- Reliable forecasting of damaging conditions such as catastrophic killer frosts, high winds, continued drought, or other conditions that might hit the farm gives the farmer the knowledge needed to engage the best mitigation strategy.
- Precision agriculture involves the use of modern hardware, tools, and data to support farm management practices and actions, to increase profitability and foster environmental stewardship.
- Led by Mike Duncan, PhD, NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges (IRCC) in Precision Agriculture & Environmental Technologies, the AETIC team will collaborate with industry partners to support and develop rover smart data collection, automation, and sensor packages, as well as UAS data collection and analysis to identify crop disease and deficiencies; and enhanced numerical weather prediction.
- The NC team has trained UAS operators, and has a 40-acre campus vineyard and multiple partner farm sites to test the prototypes. The initial farmers who will benefit are vineyards, apple growers, grain farmers, and hazelnut producers. These four producer groups (all small- and medium-sized enterprises) represent more than 29,200 SME farming operations in Ontario, and more than 177,000 SME farming operations in Canada.