Some partnerships were meant to happen, and grow stronger over time. That’s how everyone in the Palette Skills community feels about our collaboration with Manitoba’s Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative (EMILI). Our relationship with EMILI began when the digital agriculture accelerator joined up as an industry partner to help develop Palette Skills’ successful Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist program. The program is designed to get participants to the forefront of automation and digitization technologies in agricultural production and processing.
So you can imagine how happy Palette Skills was to welcome EMILI as a platinum sponsor for our “Create, Compete, Commercialize” pitch night, which took place on March 9, 2023 in Saskatoon. Over 70 people came out for the event, co-hosted by The Knowledge Farm. It was a unique opportunity for participants in the cutting-edge digital agriculture program to pitch innovative agtech business ideas in front of a live audience for prizes awarded by EMILI and two other platinum sponsors.
Who is EMILI?
The Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative (EMILI) was created in 2016 to empower the Manitoba economy to leverage digital disruption, with a specific focus on digital agriculture. Under this mandate, EMILI works as a digital agriculture accelerator primarily based in Manitoba, but with projects and partners across the country. EMILI aims to harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to improve outcomes for agriculture. The organization collaborates with producers, industry, and academia to advance the adoption of intelligent technologies, and provide people and organizations with the skills and training required to succeed in the digital agricultural economy.
EMILI believes that continued success for Canadian agriculture requires building the country’s capacity to adopt new technology, in addition to attracting a skilled labour force and embracing sustainability. To achieve this, EMILI works with numerous partners to increase the integration of intelligent technologies, empower people with digital skills, support agtech and precision agriculture start-ups, and accelerate Canada’s growth as a leader in digital agriculture.
Future here now: meeting the challenge of AI and machine learning
We know that machine learning and artificial intelligence have the potential to revolutionize the way organizations operate. By analyzing vast amounts of data, these technologies can provide insights that can be used to make better decisions, automate processes, and create new products and services. However, many organizations struggle to implement these technologies effectively, usually because they lack the necessary expertise or resources.
EMILI aims to address this challenge by bringing together experts in data science, computer science, and business to support agricultural entrepreneurs, producers, and the whole of industry develop and deploy machine learning models that can be used to solve complex agricultural problems.
A fascinating aspect of EMILI’s work is its emphasis on ethical AI. Researchers at EMILI recognize the importance of ensuring that AI and ML solutions are developed and deployed in a responsible and transparent manner. EMILI provides guidance and resources to help companies navigate the ethical considerations of AI and ML, and implement solutions that are aligned with their values.
In a recent article for AgriSuccess magazine, Jacqueline Keena, managing director at EMILI describes digital agriculture as the implementation of intelligent technology before, during and after on-farm production. The promise of digital agriculture—sometimes called “smart farming”—is that it can provide farmers with more and better data, helping growers optimize decision-making, and helping build the sector’s sustainability.
While it’s true that innovative technologies for agriculture have been around for years, Keena believes that agriculture in Canada is in the early stages of adopting intelligent tech. “There’s lots more to do in terms of full integration and adoption, and getting all of the productive value out of having innovative technology is a part of production agriculture,” says Keena.
Training for equity—and opportunity
As agriculture continues to adopt innovative technologies, people with diverse skills and experiences are needed to access the full potential of these tools. STEM programs, career panels, and work-integrated learning opportunities provide learners from diverse backgrounds with education, training, and work experience to meet the changing needs across the digital agriculture ecosystem.
Through EMILI’s Emergence Initiative, the organization works with corporate partners to provide financial support, mentorship, and guidance to agri-food entrepreneurs with a focus on supporting and empowering women and Indigenous entrepreneurs. EMILI believes that start-up mentorship, access to strategic guidance, and financial support for key business scale-up activities are essential to ensure that small and medium digital agriculture enterprises have what they need to thrive.
Aligning goals, building talent
EMILI’s emphasis on building skills and talent for the future agricultural economy is in perfect accord with Palette Skills’ own vision of a Canada where all people and organizations thrive as the result of a globally competitive and inclusive economy. As a result of our collaboration with EMILI and other industry partners, Palette Skills was recently named by the federal government as a national delivery partner in its Upskilling for Industry Initiative. Along with EMILI and other members of our national upskilling ecosystem, we will continue to build skills to future-proof Canadian business and workers.