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Agriculture Hackathon sees drones, smart seeding apps

11/23/2014 07:30 EST | Updated 01/23/2015 05:59 EST
Canada's first Emerging Agriculture Hackathon — held this weekend at the University of Saskatchewan — saw participants brainstorm new ways for the industry to harness technology including drones, smart seeding apps and digital ways to monitor an animal's health.

People from a variety of fields including engineering, agriculture, medicine and technology development gathered with the aim of creating innovation in the farming industry.

Jeremy Tkachuk, a developer from Regina who participated in the event, was a member of Team Dairy, which developed a prototype computer program to could help farmers seed smarter.

"We want to be able to pull weather data with the touch of a [digital] map in order to better plan your crops," Tkachuk explained. "We can do the same thing for insects, for alerts of pesticides, so you have minimal loss."

The ideas generated over the weekend will be presented, assessed and ranked on Sunday afternoon by eight judges. The panel includes officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, industry experts and agricultural entrepreneurs. 

The first place prize is 10 hours of consulting from a Saskatoon firm.

The three teams — Dairy, Beefy and Flax — will be marked based on their supporting evidence, implementation feasibility, quality of presentation, technical merit, informativeness, demonstrated creativity and originality of the idea.

Livestock-tracking drones

Team Beefy — composed of a medical student, mechanical engineering student and a paramedic — hope to snag first place with their ideas for better ways to track livestock.

Adam McInnes, who spoke to CBC News on Team Beefy's behalf, is a fourth year medical student.

"We're looking at confined animal feeding operations, so feedlots, pig barns, poultry barns and using different metrics to decide whether an animal is sick," McInnes said.

"Using that information the operators can then monitor sickness throughout the barns and be able to catch it early on and be able to treat it before it ends up infecting the rest of the barn."

McInnes grew up on a farm and thinks flying technology has greater applications for farmers.

"Our project is looking at ways to monitor the movement of livestock," McInnes explained.

"Using drones, quad-copters, airplanes, [or] possibly like zeppelin slash blimp kind of ideas to track movement of livestock out in the pastures for big ranchers." 

Organizers with the Emerging Agriculture Hackathon said the event marks Canada's first agriculture-focused hackathon.

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