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Author: Owen Roberts

Keep it brilliant, keep it simple

The world’s innovators recognize that for advanced technology to be used for its intended purpose, it must be simple and easy to use. Such is the mantra of the Dutch machinery company Agrifac, which builds a foundation of “brilliant and simple” into its high-tech farm equipment. The company knows that in farming, there’s no time for anything to be complicated. And with the pressure on global food production to meet the growing population, today’s most advanced farm technology must be intuitive and efficient for those who use it. Like Agrifac, farmers may also be able to use the same...

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Young leaders grow where they’re planted

It’s no easy feat to develop the leaders of tomorrow – leadership and development programs require significant investments in time and funding. For the agriculture industry, the demands are high to help strengthen rural Canada, to make sure the voices of this country’s farmers are heard outside the farm gate and to help urban people understand farmers’ crucial, daily role in feeding the world. Some organizations, such as DuPont Pioneer, are stepping up to the plate to support programs already on the ground. This company’s initiative, in particular, a community investment program for youth in rural communities, works to...

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Researchers put veal calf health under the microscope

Consumer demands for more natural production approaches and pressure from all sides for reduced antimicrobials means veal producers and their veterinarians have to work harder than ever to maintain high health status. And although a recent University of Guelph study of 1,000 Canadian dairy farms shows that the majority of veal farmers are treating their herds humanely, there is still room for improvement. Specifically, the research found some farms are lacking in terms of colostrum management, nutrition (feeding male and female calves equally), and proactive veterinary conversations on calf health. Read more...

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Canada’s turn for leading-edge microbiome research

An important aspect of agriculture — the part below the soil, that no one sees — could very well rest on the shoulders of microbiome researchers. They’re studying soil-based microscopic organisms to learn how their activity and applications (such as inoculants) can elevate the agri-food sector in Canada. They already know microbiome communities are complex, symbiotic ecosystems, and now they’re able to enhance microbial relationships through genetics. There’s still more to discover, especially surrounding microbiome applications in animal digestion, crop root systems or via precision agriculture. Some, like University of Guelph researcher David Ma, believe a national research network...

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No kidding: small ruminants are coming on big

As the popularity of sheep and goat production grows, so does the learning curve for farmers and veterinarians who are together figuring out the best ways to care for these small ruminants. Case in point: post-mortems are seldom performed on sheep and goats, let alone submitted to a diagnostic laboratory for analysis. But a new distance support program at the Ontario Veterinary College is responding to the industry’s expansion. It offers online information transfer of on-farm mortalities to increase the surveillance of diseases in adult sheep and goats on Ontario farms. The project addresses the unexplained deaths of mature...

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Urban Cowboy

Raising awareness and promoting dialogue about current food and agriculture issues.


Owen Roberts – journalist, columnist, educator – provides an urban perspective on agri-food issues.

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