The industry could add $11 billion to the national GDP by 2030, an RBC report says
By Diego Flammini
If the private sector increased its focus on innovation in Canada’s ag sector, the move could help bring billions of dollars annually to the country’s economy, a new Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) report says.
RBC’s researchers and economists spent the four months looking into the changing skills demands in the national ag sector. Their findings are published in a new report titled “Farmer 4.0.”
The toolbox of the next generation of farmers will must include new technology developed by the private sector.
Currently, only about 11 per cent of total agriculture research and developing spending in Canada comes from the private sector, compared to 73 per cent in the United States.
“We see the distinction playing out in the kind of machinery that ag producers purchase,” Andrew Schrumm, senior manager of research with RBC and the report’s lead researcher, told Farms.com.
“About two-thirds of the value of farm equipment purchased is imported. That carries on through the production chain when you think about how we design the way farmers work in the field and how we write job descriptions when it comes to using these technologies.”
The industry can’t solely rely on public money. Both ag and non-ag companies will need to invest in the industry to bring Canadian-made technology to the forefront, Schrumm said.
Having access to new technologies is one part of the equation. Another part is adopting them.
Farmers are among the most innovative when it comes to using the latest tools available. The sooner producers decide to introduce themselves to new equipment, the better their operations may be, Schrumm said.
“We’re encouraging a future-forward mindset and how new technology can be incorporated into the operation and how skills can be gained along the way,” he said. “One of the biggest barriers we heard about was the lack of skills in being able to use a new implement or other technology.”
Bringing new people into the ag industry will also help it succeed.
As many as 123,000 jobs in the sector could go unfulfilled by Canadians in the next decade, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council says.
So, every corner of the industry must be committed to attracting workers to agriculture, Schrumm said.
“We heard that, at times, the industry isn’t as competent as it would like to be in communicating what jobs in the industry look like to potential new” worker, he said. “There should be a concerted effort across the industry to show people the new and exciting opportunities with which agriculture can provide them.”
More investments in technology and having a suitable workforce to handle the new tools could help the industry create an additional $11 billion in annual GDP by 2030, RBC says. That increase would bring the ag GDP to $51 billion, making it bigger than the automotive and aeronautics industries combined.