Many of the producers taking in Agri-Trade this week have travelled a considerable distance to do so. But few have logged the miles of a foursome who visited the Red Deer show on Wednesday.
A delegation of four Russians soaked up the latest in farm technology and innovations as part of a week-long trip to Alberta. Three own farms and the third is a manager, said Mike Dubman, their Canadian guide and translator.
Touring the Westerner Park exhibits, the group was struck by the size of Agri-Trade and the broad range of products on display.
“The impression of the show was entirely positive,” said Dubman, who is from Russia but now lives in Vancouver and works for Western Canadian Destination Solutions.
He said agriculture in Russia is rapidly evolving, with farmers there anxious to adopt new and improved methods of production.
“They are hungry for technology. This is all about knowledge.”
Previously, agricultural delegations from Russia consisted primarily of government officials who were interested in regulations and supply management, said Dubman. But now, more farmers are travelling overseas to learn about production techniques.
This group flew into Edmonton last Friday, and have spent their time touring Alberta farms, government facilities and agri-businesses. They’ve been surprised with the level of automation here, said Dubman.
“Apparently, Canadian agriculture is technology heavy; there are hundreds of thousands of dollars of assets per worker.”
He contrasts this with countries like Russia, where agriculture is still labour-intensive due to the low cost of manpower. But, a transformation in Russia and other former Soviet countries is underway.
“They’re anxious for modernization.”
Dubman thinks collaboration between Russia and Canada could benefit both countries. Currently, much of the food Russians consume is imported.
“There is a huge market. I believe it’s a big opening for the Canadian agriculture industry.”
Officials with Agri-Trade and Central Alberta: Access Prosperity — a regional economic partnership seeking to attract foreign investment to the area — arranged for the group to come to Red Deer. Cyril Cooper, manager of Central Alberta: Access Prosperity, said time was tight but the delegation’s visit has set the stage for similar meetings in the future.