Early adopters take note
If you’re an early adopter, there is probably no better time to think about a career in Canada’s agtech revolution. In response to many global and local pressures—including labour shortages, climate change, and even the rise of integrated value chains—the conventional approach to agriculture that dominated Canadian farms for decades is getting an upgrade, with a new focus on technology, sustainability, and precision.
So what is agtech, and what does it mean for agriculture in Canada, and most importantly, what does it mean for your career?
As you might have already guessed, the word agtech is about both agriculture, and technology. It’s an approach to growing things that goes beyond the mechanical and industrial technologies already familiar to most Canadian farmers, and farmworkers. Instead, companies at the forefront of the agtech revolution are looking for solutions that include automation, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and even drone technologies to help farmers produce more crops using less resources.
Agtech in Canada: room to grow
Now, you might think that given Canada’s status as an agricultural superpower, Canadian farms would be leading the way when it comes to deploying the sophisticated technologies that are part of what’s also been called smart agriculture. But according to many experts, Canada is not as far ahead as it should be. Part of the problem is that we have arable land in abundance, a luxury that other countries simply can’t rely on. As a result, Canadian investment in agtech is lagging behind what it should be, compared to other jurisdictions such as the U.S. and even Korea.
But make no mistake: big disruption is coming to the Canadian farm landscape, and in many cases, it’s already here—and growing fast. In addition to a burgeoning ecosystem of growers and consumers interested in sustainable and locally-sourced produce, there is evidence that the agricultural investment scene is beginning to shift gears, seeking out opportunities to put money into innovation and technology like never before. It’s clear that agricultural food production in this country is at a pivotal moment, and that means there has never been a better opportunity to get in on the ground floor of Canada’s agtech growth.
The talent shortage, and what it means for you
If the country was already facing an agricultural labour shortage before the pandemic and the global supply chain crisis, it’s even more daunting for the sector when it comes to hiring the kind of talent required to put technology on the ground on Canadian farms. Leading organizations throughout the agrifood sector have been warning about the labour crunch for years now, and slowly, policymakers and business leaders are taking heed. What’s relevant here is that the kinds of skills needed to build out Canada’s agtech revolution aren’t just limited to degrees in advanced robotics. Instead, the agriculture of the future requires people with a range of skills that more than likely includes the ones you bring to the table.
Bear in mind that according to some studies, the agricultural sector is facing a shortfall of up to 123,000 workers within the next decade. And as we’ve pointed out before, demographic shifts in the Canadian farm landscape mean that an older generation of farmers is approaching retirement, so there’s a real opportunity for younger people comfortable with tech to enter the field. In addition, agtech needs people with business degrees adept at entrepreneurialism and enterprise management, data analysts, as well as HR managers who know what the next generation of tech workers want when it comes to the workplace. If this list of skills still doesn’t include you, then how about this: it turns out that agtech needs a talented and internationally-focused sales workforce, as well as people with a comprehensive range of soft skills that include listening and empathy.
The Digital Agriculture Specialist Program
To get the next generation of talent ready for agtech in Canada, national nonprofit Palette Skills has teamed up with agriculture innovation leaders at the University of Saskatchewan and the Enterprise Machine Intelligence Learning Initiative (EMILI) to launch the Digital Agriculture Specialist Program for residents of Saskatchewan. The program is an eight-week intensive experience designed to get you up to speed with automation and digitization technologies in agricultural production and processing. The goal is to train workers so that they’re ready to hit the ground with the tools they need to identify, manage, and implement technological solutions across the agrifood value chain. Already, alumni from the first cohort of digital agriculture specialists are singing the praises of the program, pointing out that it’s a great place to start with a career in Canada’s agtech revolution.
So what are you waiting for? Apply today!