When Ontario farmers consider introducing new technologies to their operations, there is a long list of factors besides cost that come into play in determining whether they are suitable.
While the inclusion of innovation can be seen as a significant investment, the cost is often outweighed by performance when results are proven and make sense for the operation in question, according to new research from the Niagara Community Observatory. (NCO) of Brock University.
The NCO’s latest guidance document, presented at a virtual event on Wednesday, December 8, examines the barriers and drivers of automation and robotics adoption in Ontario’s agriculture sector. The research combines analysis of survey data from Ontario farms with that of in-depth interviews with farmers and agricultural innovation stakeholders.
The article was written by Amy Lemay, NCO researcher and adjunct professor at the Brock Center for Environmental Sustainability Research; Charles Conteh, professor of public policy and management in the department of political science and director of the non-commissioned officers; and Jeff Boggs, associate professor of geographic and tourism studies and acting director of non-commissioned officers.
The dissertation is NCO’s latest research on agricultural innovation policies, funded by the federal-provincial Canadian Partnership for Agriculture.
Its findings suggest that the widespread adoption of automation and robotics technologies in the agricultural sector depends on:
- Technologies that provide solutions to real problems.
- Technologies with proven and validated performance and advantages.
- Equipment suppliers with local and reliable service, maintenance and technical support.
- Governance frameworks for data that protect privacy and security.
- Policies and programs that incentivize early adopters and smallholder farms.
“Our results suggest that the perceived failures on the part of farmers in adopting automation and robotics technologies are not due to the fact that they are inherently slow adopters due to their overly cautious or conservative nature, but rather, we find that farmers are making objectively rational choices. decisions, ”says Lemay. “Farmers are showing reluctance to adopt technologies with unproven performance or profitability from suppliers with uncertain futures who have weak connections or understanding of the agricultural sector. “
Lemay says the team’s research found that “for most farmers performance was more important than cost or ease of use when choosing a technology.”
But adoption challenges arose when it came to technologies that had not yet tangibly demonstrated the promised benefits, as well as those unable to provide local and reliable access to service, parts and equipment. long-term maintenance, as many technologies are imported from multinational manufacturers. based outside of Canada.
To address these concerns, Lemay says it may be necessary for researchers and technology solution providers to forge collaborations with local agricultural equipment distributors and retailers to bring new technologies to market.
“Our findings underscore the need to reconsider, rethink and revisit how the adoption of agri-food innovations is supported and promoted in the province,” Conteh said. “We want to generate solutions to accelerate the transfer and adoption of technologies. While empirically our focus is Ontario, our findings have implications for all of Canada.
The next phase of the study, which is now underway, involves researchers interviewing stakeholders from Canadian “superclusters” – NGen in Hamilton and Protein Industries Canada in Saskatoon – to better understand the drivers and barriers to adoption. technologies, according to Lemay. .
The final phase, which will take place this winter, will include a series of focus groups that will bring together agri-food stakeholders from industry, government and academia to identify policy and government recommendations to support and promote the adoption of food technologies. automation and robotics.
Following Wednesday’s brief presentation, a panel discussion was held with industry stakeholders: Kathryn Carter, Tender Fruit and Grape Specialist, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs ; Hussam Haroun, Director, Automation, Vineland Research and Innovation Center; and Rodney Bierhuizen, co-owner of Sunrise Greenhouses.
The Niagara Community Observatory’s latest thesis, “Cultivating Agro-Innovation: Investigating the Barriers and Drivers of Automation and Robotics Adoption in Ontario’s Agriculture Sector,” is available at the NCO website.