SaskTel, USask collaborate on 'smart farm' concept for livestock

LFCE would be Canada's first research smart farm focused on maximizing livestock operations' efficiency through interconnected wireless environment.

September 24, 2020

2 Min Read
USask lfce-sasktel-1080.jpg
From left: David Ekstrand, SaskTel vice president of business sales and solutions; Angela Bedard-Haughn, dean of USask College of Agriculture & Bioresources; Terry Fonstad, associate dean research and partnerships with the USask College of Engineering, and Mike Stefaniuk, SaskTel director of business development.Photo: Danielle Baron

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) and SaskTel will partner to launch a “living laboratory” at the university’s Livestock & Forage Centre of Excellence (LFCE) to test, develop and demonstrate world-class agricultural technologies.

Through a memorandum of understanding (MOU), SaskTel and USask will focus on “smart farming” research and innovation to accelerate transformation in Saskatchewan’s agriculture industry. Smart farming involves collecting and analyzing “big data” so producers can make informed and sustainable farm management decisions that improve productivity, the announcement said.

This initiative — driven by engineering, agricultural and computer science researchers — will focus on conducting research, improving education around smart farming and testing and validating new agricultural technology (ag tech) ideas and solutions.

LFCE would be the first research smart farm in Canada focused on maximizing efficiency in livestock operations through the latest “Internet of Things”-based technology in an interconnected wireless environment, USask said.

“We are excited to partner with SaskTel to help producers advance livestock farming to the next level through use of some of the world’s best digital agricultural technologies — from drones equipped with software to sensors that can monitor herds and their health,” USask vice president research Karen Chad said. “This cutting-edge research will help meet the world’s increasing food demands while enhancing training of our students in the latest high-tech farming techniques.”

Terry Fonstad, associate dean of research and partnerships with the USask College of Engineering, said the MOU underscores the commitment LFCE has made to livestock producer groups to serve as a "powerhouse for innovative research and teaching" that will improve livestock production around the world.

“The MOU brings together new knowledge and applied research at USask in areas of strength in engineering, agriculture and computer science with the infrastructure and expertise at SaskTel to advance agriculture,” Fonstad said.

SaskTel and USask will invite key stakeholders in the agriculture industry, including ag tech startups, to identify challenges, propose solutions and initiate projects to test and validate these solutions at LFCE, the announcement said.

“With modern agricultural technology improving and evolving at an ever-increasing rate, the opportunity [for USask and SaskTel] to work together will support decision-making and drive innovation into the foreseeable future,” SaskTel president and chief executive officer Doug Burnett said.

SaskTel is the leading information and communications technology provider in Saskatchewan.

LFCE is a world-class complex of field and science laboratories that brings together every link of the livestock production chain under one roof. Modeling all aspects of raising livestock on the Canadian prairies, it encompasses everything from forage development, grazing management and environmental sustainability to cattle reproduction, cow/calf management and feedlot health, growth and productivity. In addition to beef cattle research and education, LFCE is a center for bison reproductive work, vaccine development and disease control and nutrition.

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