Agro-food technologies | Towards food autonomy: more and more technocultures

Quebec wants to improve its food self-sufficiency, and this will inevitably require growing more and more land in winter. And profitable. This requires the introduction of new technologies.

Published at 8:32

Martin Letart

Martin Letart
special cooperation

When David Côté, co-owner with his brother Matthieu Jardins Abbotsford DC in St. Paul d’Abbotsford, answers the call Press, we hear a high level of activity around him. His greenhouse is full of strawberries to pick, then he prepares to start working in the field. Fortunately, he is now assisted by uFields, a digital tool developed by the Quebec Strawberry and Raspberry Association, to manage various aspects of his production.

“Farmers wanted the tool to be tailored to their needs in order to better manage their data because during the season the crops are harvested every morning, the baskets have to be unloaded quickly and it was difficult for them to keep up,” explains Jennifer Crawford, CEO. Director of the Strawberry and Raspberry Association of Quebec.

The uFields tool, which can also be used for other fruits and vegetables, includes a module for human resource management, one for tracking production, i.e. which box was selected by whom, when and in which field, and then for tracking inputs.


PHOTO MARTIN TREMBLAY, PRESS

Strawberries from Jardins Abbotsford DC in St. Paul d’Abbotsford

“uFields eliminates bugs and provides us with a huge amount of important information year after year to analyze our work, compare and adjust,” says David Kote.

A fourth module on traceability and security is currently under development and is scheduled for release in 2023.


PHOTO MARTIN TREMBLAY, PRESS

David Cote, co-owner of Jardins Abbotsford DC in St. Paul d’Abbotsford, uses the uFields tool to manage his farm.

real progress

With a suite of technologies to improve efficiency, control light, temperature and humidity, Quebec has more and more opportunities to grow a variety of crops in greenhouses during the winter,” said Marilou Cyr, CEO of Zone Agtech, a place of innovation and networking to drive the development of future agtech.

Quebec already grows strawberries, lettuce and mini greens in greenhouses during the winter. We continue to diversify crops, but the problem is that we have to adapt technologies to each of them.

Marilou Sir, CEO of Zone Agtech

For example, Zone Agtech is starting a project in collaboration with the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières and agricultural producers including Serres Lefort to grow cucumbers.

We also had to solve the problem of shortage of personnel. Much effort has recently been made to automate and robotize parts of production such as cleaning, sorting and packaging. However, small greenhouses have problems with the cost recovery of acquiring these technologies.

“We are in the process of creating a program to help them, especially since the vast majority of greenhouses in Quebec are small,” adds Marilou Cyr. The program is expected to roll out this year or early next year. »

More Challenges

But food self-sufficiency is not just about fruits and vegetables. “There are fish farming projects, in particular, to solve the problem of nitrogen emissions in order to reduce our fish imports,” says Marilou Cyr. There are also projects with insects as an alternative protein: it’s a really big trend, even if Quebec consumers are still wary. It’s the same with algae. In Lanaudière, a quinoa production project is even being developed. »

Then you have to bounce back in the face of the various types of problems that arise. “For example, several diseases are destroying soybean crops, and we are developing technologies to better identify them and reduce crop losses,” explains Marilou Cyr.

Another concern is the price of natural gas, which has doubled in recent years, given that it is used to heat several greenhouses. “There are plans to convert greenhouses to hydroelectric power or other renewable energy sources,” says Marilou Cyr. As well as light emitting diodes [DEL] used for lighting produce heat, so they reduce the need for heating. Projects are progressing well, but they need to be accelerated. »

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  • 546
    Number of fruit and vegetable greenhouses in Quebec in 2020. Their total area was 125 hectares.

    Source: Government of Quebec.