By Bruce Johnstone

For Economic Development Regina

REGINA – Farming may be the world’s oldest profession, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t keeping up with the times.

In fact, agricultural production in Saskatchewan has increased more or less steadily over the past 120 years, despite the number of farmers peaking in 1936 at 573,894 and falling by 210,000 over the next 20 years.

According to the 2016 Census of Agriculture, the number of farm operators in Saskatchewan was 45,350, a decline of nearly 38 per cent in 20 years.

So how do today’s farmers produce as much or more than 10 times the number of farmers did 80 years ago? In a word, technology.

“New technologies available to farmers led to economies of size and scale in agriculture – the larger the size of the operation, the lower the per unit costs of production,’’ U of S economist Rose Olfert wrote in The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. “On-farm adjustments have consisted of the adoption of new technologies from mechanization to biotechnology…”

While today’s farmers are exponentially more productive than their pioneer counterparts, they can’t rest on their laurels. If anything, the pressure to produce more food at lower cost – both economically and environmentally -- is greater than ever.

By 2050, the world will need to produce 70 per cent more food, according to the 2018 World Government Summit report, Agriculture 4.0 - The Future of Farming Technology. This daunting target will be even more difficult to achieve because agriculture’s share of global GDP has shrunk to three per cent – one–third of its size only a few decades ago.

But this goal will not be achieved by using the technologies of the past.  “Agriculture 4.0 will no longer depend on applying water, fertilizer and pesticides uniformly across entire fields. Instead, farmers will use the minimum quantities required and target very specific areas.’’

“Future agriculture will use sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images and GPS technology,’’ according to Agriculture 4.0.

“These advanced devices and precision agriculture and robotic systems will allow farms to be more profitable, efficient, safe and environmentally friendly.’’

It might surprise you to know that the future of agriculture is closer than you think. Even more surprising perhaps, many of these technological innovations in agriculture – agtech, for short – are being developed right here in the Regina area.

The following company profiles are just a small sample of the wide range and various stages of development of the agtech sector in the Regina area.