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Thursday, 20 October 2011 08:05

Ag-Tech Centre keeping up to date on latest ag technology

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By Jamie Woodford
Tucked behind Lethbridge College, the AgTech Centre is a place where new technologies in agriculture are researched and tested to help improve the industry.

Engineers and technologists at the facility produce independent information based on research and development of agriculture-related machinery and technology.

Not only do they determine the applications and limitations of the equipment they study, but they also look for ways to improve it with testing in the field lab. The results are available to anyone interested.

Described by Head, Technology and Innovation Rick Atkins as an evaluation organization, the centre uses applied research to test manufacturers’ equipment and help develop better systems.

“We help develop ideas or we help a manufacturer test a component or test new tool before it actually goes on the market,” he said.

“Not only do we look at the technology, but how that technology works into a production system.”

Energy efficiency is a hot topic in the industry as more and more farmers and ag producers strive to create more sustainable operations.

“Energy and energy efficiency is a big one with us. We’re also into manure management and manure processing, and we’ve done work on composting and biogas and even evaluation of manure spreaders and things like that,” said Atkins.

Part of the province’s Agriculture Rural Development program, the facility maintains its roots as a former Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute and continues to specialize in seeding, tillage and spraying equipment.

“(We) do a fair bit of work in the dry bean industry, coming up with the best technology systems that works for spraying fungicides for that industry,” he said.

Other projects on the horizon may include looking at the benefits of controlled traffic farming, which is basically a matter of matching up the machinery and the technology for a new way to assemble a farm, Atkins explained. “We would essentially be using tram lines and determining whether or not there’s some benefits as far as energy savings or even greater yield potential.”

The latest evolution of the centre is becoming a part of the Environmental Stewardship Division which looks into technologies that can have environmental benefits on a farm.

“So not only is it a competitive advantage for producers, but it actually will lead to other benefits as well, for example in the energy efficiency area, saving fuel has a ... benefit as well as a cost benefit,” Atkins said.

“Even in spraying area, we’re looking at optimizing chemical applications that have an environmental benefit as well.”

Looking forward, Atkins said the centre, which celebrates 35 years in 2013, will continue its steady course of working to improve technologies in agriculture.

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