Friday, 12 May 2017

Release of 2016 Census of Agriculture – Relevance to Rural Broadband in Ontario

 Helen Hambly, R2B2 Project Lead
This week, (May 10th) Statistics Canada released data and reports from the 2016 Census of Agriculture.

It’s important to realize that the 2016 Census of Agriculture includes a revised set of questions about farm use of emerging digital devices, including those associated with Precision Agriculture as well as those devices that require wireless and wireline technologies.
In Canada, 25.6% of all operating farms are in Ontario. With 49,000 farms, this number is down from 2011 by 4.5%. This news in Ontario is not all bad. Past census data indicates that the decrease was higher between 2006-2011 (-9.5%). As well, Ontario’s rate of decline is less than the national rate of decline (-5.9%).

Statistics Canada identifies the following trends relevant to initiatives that seek to strengthen regional and rural broadband infrastructure:  

      In Ontario, 13.8% farms reported using automated steering technology in 2015. R2B2 observesPrecision Agriculture (PA) technologies are demanding faster/synchronous wireless and wireline (fibre) systems to use PA effectively.

·         In Ontario, 10.4% farms reported having renewable energy-producing systems in 2015. At the national level, the percentage was 5.3%.  R2B2 observesSolar farming and renewable energy that sells back to the grid have been responsible for farms making “quantum leaps” in terms of their Internet use and access. ‘Smart’ energy use systems are good for farms and the environment.

·         In Ontario, greenhouse vegetables production rose by 29.8% (111.9 million sq. ft.) which is two-thirds of the national figure.  R2B2 observesThe rapid increase in greenhouse vegetable production is likely to drive demand for Internet-enabled technologies in greenhouse operations with opportunities that include efficient use of inputs, time-sensitive decision support and remote management.

·         Farms in Ontario employ 70,470 people. This number has declined 5.8% since 2011. R2B2 observes: Technology use has been recognized as both a cause of and response to changes in labour.

·         The largest proportion of farm operators (55.1%) is 55 years and older. Women make up approximately one-third of Ontario’s farm operators. There was growth observed in the proportion of young farmers which increased from 8.2% (2011) to 9.4% (2016). R2B2 observes: Age is a relevant variable for technology adoption where digital devices are concerned. In a recent study we reported that younger cohorts of farm operators are more likely to be adopters of at least one type of PA.

With the 2016 Census of Agriculture, we note that Statistics Canada has tried to move beyond its earlier focus which was known as “Computers Used for Farm Business” (CANSIM Table 004-0231).  From the new data table (CANSIM Table 004-0243) we note the following:

Technologies Used
Southern Ontario Region
Ontario
Computers/laptops for farm management 
10567
27904
Smartphones/tablets for farm management 
7699
19532
Automated steering (auto-steer)
3304
6851
GPS technology
6571
13851
GIS mapping (e.g., soil mapping)
2852
5436
Greenhouse automation
430
636
Robotic milking
83
337
Automated environmental controls for animal housing
996
3270
Automated animal feeding
990
2914
Other technologies
102
250

Southern Ontario has a substantial share of the above-listed technologies. Nevertheless, there exists an apparent challenge associated with these CoA data. As Statistics Canada points out, there are different interpretations among respondents about what constitutes technology used for farm management. Farm operators may not necessarily distinguish between personal or household use of computers and smartphones, and those devices used for farm operations.  The metrics for assessing emerging digital technology adoption in Canadian agriculture need improvement.  The R2B2 project and partners are inspired by this challenge. R2B2 is ‘digging deeper’ into the adoption of digital technologies in farming, and focusing on issues concerning connectivity across the Southern Ontario Region.

For further information about the 2016 Census of Agriculture see Statistics Canada’s website (and of course, we all need Internet access to make use of this information): http://www.statcan.gc.ca

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Call for Applications - Rural Broadband Research Fellowship





SCHOOL OF ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Ontario Agricultural College

Landscape Architecture & Capacity Development and Extension & Rural Planning and Development

Call for Applications
Closes: April 30, 2017

University of Guelph – MSc in Capacity Development & Extension
Rural Broadband Research Fellowship

The Ontario Agricultural College’s School of Environmental Design and Rural Development (SEDRD) and the Capacity Development and Extension Program invites applications from qualified Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents for two MSc research fellowships on the topic of ultra-high speed Internet broadband infrastructure and applications in Southern Ontario.

Given the rapidly changing context of regional and rural broadband development and deployment, priority research topics would include:
-          gap analysis of existing and prospective precision agriculture technologies with the current and evolving models of rural connectivity
-          adoption of high/ultra-high speed Internet services and applications for innovation among rural small businesses in southern Ontario
-          the role of wireless technologies in ‘last mile’ broadband connectivity in rural SW Ontario
-          outcome analysis of broadband-enabled educational and vocational training opportunities in southern Ontario

The ideal candidate will have an undergraduate degree in social or natural science relevant to the student’s research topic. Students may come from diverse academic backgrounds including computer science, economics, telecommunication management, engineering and/or agricultural sciences. The fellowship is valued at approximately $3500 per semester, renewed for up to three semesters based upon satisfactory academic and research performance.

Eligible and interested applicants must contact Dr. Helen Hambly (hhambly@uoguelph.ca) by email before April 30, 2017 indicating the applicant’s interest and GPA (grade point average) for the last two years of university education. If the applicant is deemed eligible, an application to the MSc CDE program will be required and other required information will be sent to the applicant. For inquiries about graduate admissions to the University of Guelph, see https://www.uoguelph.ca/graduatestudies/



Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1 

(519) 824-4120 (Dr. Helen Hambly x53408)

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

New Federal Report Recognizes the Importance of Rural Broadband …. and the raison d’ĂȘtre of the R2B2 Project

Canada released a report from the Advisory Council on Economic Growth entitled “Unleashing the Growth Potential of Key Sectors” on February 6, 2017, which states,

“Moreover, while new digital technologies like machine learning have the potential to cause step changes in productivity, the lack of a common analytics platform and rural broadband stand in the way of realizing the full potential of these advances in Canada. At a more basic level, too, we could do more to encourage productivity gains: for example, government spending on agriculture, equalling 26 percent of its economic output flows largely to farmers to smooth volatility and manage risk; it is not contingent on meeting productivity-related requirements, such as adopting new technologies. In the food-processing sector in particular, companies, on average, report that they realize fewer innovations than the manufacturing sector as a whole” (p.10). See the full report: http://www.budget.gc.ca/aceg-ccce/pdf/key-sectors-secteurs-cles-eng.pdf

Friday, 10 February 2017

Congratulations to Grey County!

R2B2 team congratulates Grey County on being named one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities  in the world for 2017! 

R2B2 was pleased to support Grey County in its application by supplying some aggregate data on connectivity in the county. This is a great achievement for the County, and by association, rural Southwestern Ontario. Details of this announcement by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) can be found by following this link.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

R2B2 team attends Precision Agriculture Conference 2017

R2B2 research team members Mamun Chowdury and Emily Duncan recently attended the Precision Agriculture Conference and Ag Tech Showcase 2017 organised by farms.com in London, ON. With over 300 attendees, this two day conference brought together farmers, PA related companies and various public sector participants under one roof. Over 25 PA companies were present for the Ag Tech Showcase. R2B2 team members discussed connectivity needs with participants. Ultra-high speed internet connectivity is desirable to achieve the maximum benefits of the available PA tools, their company representatives reported. More information can be found on the conference  website


R2B2 also prepared a summary of its work distributed at the conference. A copy is available here 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Rural Development Institute (RDI) - Career Opportunity

 

Two postdoctoral fellows are being recruited for this MITACS-funded project. The ideal candidates will have a relevant Ph.D. in a social science discipline, such as Sociology or Geography, with training in qualitative and quantitative research methods and analyses. Hiring will be based on demonstrated research achievements, strong communications skills, commitment to rural communities, and experience in community-based participatory research.

More details about the posting can be found here.