FarmTech 2016: An Attendee’s Experience

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With 2000 seats in the main hall, a 165′ wide high definition video wall plus remote screens made sure that everyone had a great seat at FarmTech 2016.

Alberta Canola Producers Commission director Kelly McIntyre attended last week’s FarmTech event. He offers his thoughts on the conference and all it had to offer.

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For the last five years, I have attended FarmTech as an Alberta Canola Producers Commission (ACPC) director. Prior to joining the board, I still attended almost every one as a farmer. Why? Leading edge information that helps me succeed both as a farmer and a person. The variety of presenters at FarmTech is amazing.

ACPC’s commitment to FarmTech helps to ensure that the commission stays connected to the farmers it serves and this years’ experience was even more exciting to me than past ones. As a director of the Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA) I was asked to participate in a television interview to promote ‘The Man Van’. This van is a portable testing facility for the early detection of prostate cancer in men. It was brought to FarmTech though the sponsorship provided by CCGA. Doing a television interview is a bit of a nerve-wracking experience for a rookie like me but I was happy to help promote such a good initiative. The Global News health segment aired that night after the first day of FarmTech. Well, as a result there were many farmers who came to the van the next day for the simple PSA blood test! There were even a few people from the city that had seen the interview and came to the FarmTech event just to get tested. I never could have imagined when I started to come to this event many years ago in Red Deer that I would be a part of such a noble cause.

As the years of attending have progressed I have found that my focus has changed. I used to go to as many agronomy sessions as possible. Now I tend to go to sessions that are more about self-improvement and big picture thinking. Agronomy is still available if you want it but some of the other session topics are a little harder for a farmer to find in other places. It can be a little overwhelming having all these new ways of thinking and doing things so I try to focus on one or two new ideas and developed the skills around them.

This year I attended a session called Relationship Awareness. I don’t think many farmers would have actively sought out information on this subject previously, but at a conference it is easy and comfortable to attend. Good communication with many different people is a big part of a farmer’s life and this session focused on improving that. I also attended a session on sustainability, which helped me to understand that it is more than just a buzz word, it is part of our entire food production system. The session on Weed Resistance in the USA made me realize the devastating effects of not paying attention to crop and chemical rotations: they are in big trouble. Plant Growth Regulators presented by a panel of farmers with some experience are emerging as a new technology available to farmers. I learned that they are sometimes very effective but not necessarily a fit for everyone or every field. The large attendance at the Managing Canola Harvest session showed me that farmers are very willing to adopt new management strategies.

Overall, I will continue to attend this event in both a personal and professional capacity because it brings value to all parts of my life. As an ACPC director I enjoy the conversations I have with other growers and like seeing people enjoy an event we host.