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COVID-19 challenges push forward innovation and strategy

The agriculture and food production industries continue to face their fair share of challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic pushes changes in everyday tasks to produce food. However, many are also proving that necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
 
Rozita Dara is an associate professor at the University of Guelph. Two of her areas of study are smart farming and food transparency. She says the pandemic is sparking agility in digital agriculture technologies.
 
Restrictions pushing ideas
 
"Some of the restrictions, such as social distancing, may push for more platforms that manage data instead of relying on manual data collection, paper, etcetera," Dara says, noting data sharing will also change.
 
Agriculture and food production industries' ability to adapt now during the pandemic will help down the road, in case of another major disease outbreak, Dara points out.
 
"We have the opportunity with technology and everything to think about what if it happens next time and how we can mitigate some of the issues and challenges that we were having in the past two to three months," she says.
 
Direct sales opportunities
 
The pandemic created opportunities across the country where consumers want more food straight from the farm. That left some farmers moving to direct farmgate sales, or farmers’ markets moving to online stores with curbsite pickup.
 
Brenda Tjaden, with Sustainable Grain, is involved with a food box program called Prairie Roots, a program started to assit farmers with the delivery of food.
 
Tjaden, who has a background as a food economist, says she anticipated the run on local food at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“So, I quickly started connecting with small farms around Winnipeg and across Manitoba to identify what we have and then try to lineup a way to create a new distribution model because the large efficient one as we have seen is struggling to cope,“ Tjaden says.
 
She says the foodbox home delivery service in Winnipeg features regionally produced food from ecologically-minded farmers.
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