Ag innovation and technology on display

As I write this, out my window the swathers are taking a snow-flattened field of barley and turning it into fluffy swaths, ready for the combine. It’s a much different scene than one week ago, when the world was white and winter was on the radar. But we didn’t skip fall after all, and that means harvest is happening.

As I write this, out my window the swathers are taking a snow-flattened field of barley and turning it into fluffy swaths, ready for the combine.

It’s a much different scene than one week ago, when the world was white and winter was on the radar. But we didn’t skip fall after all, and that means harvest is happening.

Good equipment is key, and the implements have to be primed for their annual time in the spotlight. It’s amazing to see how far harvest machines have come.

Many now look more like a space shuttle than a thresher! But that’s a trademark of agriculture — ever-advancing technology to help with the same basic task of gleaning the grain from the stalk.

When harvest is over and the equipment cleaned up and stored away, farmers enjoy seeing what’s new in their agri-business realm at the annual Agri-Trade show in Red Deer.

While the equipment expo is all about innovations in agriculture, organizers also want to recognize some of those ideas that are really a step forward, and help farmers find them on the show floor.

This year’s three Ag Innovation winners have just been announced.

There’s got to be a better way to manoeuvre and stack large round bales, and Haukass Manufacturing of Mortlach, Sask. believes it has the ticket with its Bale Grapples. The Rotating Grapple caught the judges’ eyes, as it can pick up large bales, gently turn them, and enable the farmer to stack them mushroom style, to maximize yard space.Another Ag Innovation honor goes to Integrity Post Structures of Okotoks, for the Perma-Column for post frame buildings.

These are precast concrete columns, which are longer lasting and still allow for a concrete foundation on a post farm building.

Rounding out the winners’ list is John Deere, for its Interactive Combine Adjustment. This enables the combine operator to select a harvest priority and specify which performance issue the machine should focus on: grain quality, straw condition or grain loss. By making the recommended adjustment, farmers can optimize combine efficiency during changing harvest conditions.

The Ag Innovations committee is headed up by Innisfail’s Rod Bradshaw. He explained that they judge the submitted ideas using a matrix to compare and assess factors like labor savings and safety. Bradshaw said the committee does have a local bias, seeking out innovations that are a fit for the farming systems in this region.

Bradshaw expects that in the future they’ll be seeing more innovations in information processing than equipment.

“I believe we’ll see more programs for evaluating the information being generated on the farm,” said Bradshaw. “It will help us better analyze and make decisions. I see that as a big area going forward. I hope we also see programs better adapted across equipment lines, so there can be a common platform for the data.”

“That will bring up another discussion over who owns the data, and how you protect the investment you’ve made in generating and processing it.”

As a past Nuffield scholar, Rod — and his wife Shelly and their sons — like to be on the leading edge, whether in their carrot operation or for the grain production. That same desire to see what’s different, how it works, and if it could fit here will bring thousands of farmers to Red Deer Nov. 5 to 8 for Agri-Trade.

Show manager Dianne Smirl promises a new look to the show, including 6,000 square feet more of exhibit space under cover southwest of the Agricentre.

“We’re converting some of our outside space to a covered area,” explained Smirl. “It’s a test year for the idea. We wanted to offer more protection from the weather.”

As well, in the Harvest Centre, the number of home goods suppliers is being trimmed in order to fit in some new agricultural exhibits. With space always at a premium, the waiting list doesn’t seem to shrink, so the show was looking for creative ways to expand the exhibitor base.

Last year, an Agri-Trade survey revealed some interesting feedback.

“We really saw how important attendees consider the social aspect of Agri-Trade, being able to visit with neighbors and exhibitors. So that helped us decide to get rid of the Learning Stage, and we’ve got more social network areas.

It’s a move we wouldn’t be able to make responsibly without the survey results. It really gives farmers more of a voice in designing the show and making program changes, so we’ll continue to do that.”

The carrot for participating in the short survey is entrance into a grand prize draw, and this year that’s a trip for four to a farm show anywhere in North America, including airfare and five nights accommodation.

Connecting with show visitors is one way to try and keep a few steps ahead of a very innovative and astute audience.

Smirl also pointed out there’s a new logo and the website ( has been revamped. It’s also mobile friendly for the many farmers who rely on their smart phones as a working tool as well as a social one.

While you’re programming in the Agri-Trade dates to your calendar, a couple of other upcoming events might fit in as well.

Merna Gisler reminded me of the Alberta Goat Association Convention and Production Sale. It’s Sept. 26 to 28 at the CRE in Camrose.

The event is a showcase for the Alberta goat industry, featuring everything from herd health to spinning demos. There’s also a youth convention. It’s a great place to get information if you’re at all intrigued by opportunities in goats.

Also, a favorite place of mine to watch great western horses at work is the Canadian Supreme. It runs seven days, from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5. at Westerner Park. The final weekend includes the Western Horse Sale on the Friday and Saturday’s Cinch Night at the Supreme.

Dianne Finstad is a veteran broadcaster and reporter who has covered agricultural news in Central Alberta for more than 30 years. From the Field appears monthly in the Advocate.

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