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Level up with The Grove and Haggerty AgRobotics

Sept 11, 2023

“I think we will have to use more robots.”

Chuck Baresich with Haggerty AgRobotics has a keen eye for finding solutions in Canadian agriculture. He sees agriculture robotics and automation playing a key role in taking producers to the next level in production, profitability and sustainability.

“There’s not a single farmer I know of that says, ‘I have too much labour’. Farmers say they don’t want to get rid of their labour, they want their labour to add more value. Having an employee with a hoe in their hand may have some value, but they could be doing something else.”

Baresich gives an example of a vineyard operator who says his best manager spends two days a week cutting grass between the vines. While that is a job that needs to be done, there is something more valuable he could be doing.  

“If you have a good manager, by using a robot you might be able to multiply that person into four or five people. Because you can take that knowledge they have and spread it over a bunch of machines and remove time consuming tasks. The robot can take its time and work at the right depth. A human always has a competing priority.”

Whether it’s labour or weed control, at Haggerty AgRobotics, there are robotic and precision ag solutions ready to go to work on your farm. From a solar powered autonomous weeder and feeder to Naïo Ted - built to operate in vineyard and orchard operations for controlling weeds, pruning and more and Korechi RoamIO™, an autonomous robot enabled with high precision spatial awareness to automate mundane tasks on the farm or in turf operations.

Baresich knows that farmers can’t risk taking on technology that will negatively impact their operations. That’s why partnering with Innovation Farms Ontario by AgExpert is an excellent solution. The demonstration farm will provide ample space to test and research technology, so farmers can be confident that when it gets to their farm it’s reliable and will provide the solutions promised, whether it’s increased yields, efficiencies, or better field planning from precise data collection.

“This year at the University of Guelph, one of the professors has a camera that can identify weeds. We also knew someone from Nortera Foods has a problem with weeds in vegetable crops. So, to find a solution, we put together a joint project to use the AI and a robot to map out a field and reduce the waste and cost farmers have due to weeds.”

“Another example is one of the robots we have, we think we can use for growing onions in a different way. If we can do that, we can eliminate the use of most pesticides on these onions. And it involves growing the onions in different configurations than what Ontario farmers are used to. What we did is the University of Guelph had a plot of land, we had a robot, they had a researcher and we have done that trial on this land to try and see what the yield potential is because that’s what farmers are worried about, the yield might go down and I can’t afford to do it as wonderful as it sounds.“ 

“The other piece we are seeing is a robot that can do strip tilling and planting on a more standard scale.  

There’s trial work there and we think we can get some adoption. We need to prove out that the robot can do it reliably.”

Baresich is excited to partner with Innovations Farms Ontario powered by AgExpert at his Haggerty Creek farm because it will provide the controlled environment, acres and research to bring together those agriculture solutions to the farm.

Along with building confidence, collaboration is a key component to success in the blossoming precision ag and robotics sector. From Canadian universities and the Innovation Farm to The Grove at Western Fair District in London, Ontario, there is a unifying interest in positively impacting the course of Canadian agriculture and Food.

James Smith is Director of Agri-food at Western Fair District. It’s home to the Grove, a unique agri-food business hub that provides the knowledge, equipment, expertise and funding to launch entrepreneurs into successful businesses.

“We are developing food processing from an accelerator point of view. Small start-ups and food processing companies are supported through an incubation stage where they can rent kitchens and food processing spaces that were built to CFIA standards. In that environment they can produce and make a larger quantity and get to a larger audience and a point where they can afford to build or rent their own square footage.”

When it comes to expertise, these small food processing companies can access training to grow their business, create business plans and scale up to reach their next level.

Part of that growth requires money. So, The Grove partners with RHA Ventures for seed funding. Through that there is mentorship to help these small start-up companies expand or pivot their direction to meet market needs. The Grove also offers a grant to support the growing financial needs.

Smith said that desire to support new ideas and scale up food processing brought them together with Baresich, Haggerty Agrobotics and the Innovation Farms Network.

“This partnership allows us to continue to expand on helping agtech grow. To be able to support the innovation farm, we want to build a couple of hubs here within the Grove. We want an agriculture robotics hub to show the innovation that’s happening in this region. What we do will help agricultural centres across Canada and around North America.”

“This project will allow us to benefit from the connections with the innovation farms and what Chuck is doing in supporting the growth of agriculture and agtech in south western Ontario.” 

Smith is already connecting local producers to companies that can process their products at home, avoiding the expense of processing overseas only to pay more when the finished products return to Canada.

“We have flour mills for example, and another company that makes dumpling dough. That’s the local sourcing of products. We are reaching a point where we have 10 companies. At The Grove we’ve started to work on what’s next. There’s an ice creamery and we want to connect them to local dairy products.  

The other is our ginseng processing and manufacturing facility that will open in the next month. A professor at Western University is doing research to strengthen the ginseng farming community in southwestern Ontario. He has developed a ginseng processing facility within The Grove that will help them process ginseng as opposed to sending it overseas. We can process it here. And use it in things like energy drinks and health drinks. 

Those are some great examples of supporting local farmers by connecting them to food processing plants that may be on a small scale but can grow into a larger scale.  

“We feel we are closing some of the gaps that are there to enter into the market. We’re excited.  

When you think of all the work that goes into creating all these start up elements, the little projects that are coming together create a bridge for companies to get off the ground.

They can focus on selling and marketing their products as opposed to worrying about the funding or storage of producing say 10,000 units. This eliminates a lot of those barriers to allow these companies to get these amazing products out there.”

There’s incredible opportunity at the Grove and those who are interested in making use of its tremendous resources can get in touch through thegrovewfd.com.

“I see FCC and this farm innovation project will allow everything we are doing now go to a whole new level and be able to access and connect producers to the innovation and technology that’s out there, that has not been accessible to this point. Being able to afford to do these things in innovation will get us to the next level.”