Back to News

Fitbit for cows, automatic feed machines: How B.C. aims to be a leader in agritech

Reference: CTV News

At Ecodairy farm in Abbotsford, the animals wear smart tech.

Around each cow's neck is a blue necklace that can help a robotic milking machine identify them. On their ears, they wear a machine that can do things like monitor their heartrate. Think Fitbit, but for cows.

Scott Johnson, the manager of the farm, says wheatgrass is grown vertically indoors. In about the size of a classroom, the farm can grow more than 50 hectares' worth in a year.

Johnson told reporters even with last year's heat dome and flooding, there was feed for the cows.

This is what agritech is all about: improving farming through technology, and also making it more resilient in the face of extreme climate emergencies.

Bill Vanderkooi is the founder of the farm, which hosted a government announcement Thursday. The province is investing up to $6.5 million over three years and Ottawa up to $10 million dollars over five to launch the B.C. Centre for Agritech Innovation this fall at Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus.

"We're looking at things like feeding seaweed to reduce methane in beef production or dairy production," explained Vanderkooi when asked about the type of solutions the centre would bring.

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said he toured the province and found – from flooding in the Fraser Valley to new pests in the Interior – there was a demonstrated need to improve food security.

Some of the other projects to be investigated include sensors that can monitor which plants need more water, to preserve water and optimize water use. Another may even look to see if Abbotsford can grow sushi rice.

"I feel like this is a seed and the start, to see if we can answer those questions," said Vanderkooi.

The centre will look at practical ways to improve farming practices. The province claims the project will create up to 200 jobs... Read More