Farmers’ insights needed for Brock agriculture tech research

If you’re a farmer in Niagara, particularly a greenhouse grower, Amy Lemay wants to hear from you.

The Research Fellow at Brock University is conducting interviews with Niagara’s crop and livestock farmers about their use — or non-use — of automation and robotics technologies in their agricultural operations.

“We’re trying to understand how the Niagara agricultural innovation ecosystem works,” says Lemay. “The project is about identifying the barriers and challenges to the adoption of automation robotics technologies, with the purpose of informing policy around the adoption of these advanced technologies.”

Lemay is part of a Brock research team, headed by Professor of Political Science Charles Conteh, that is examining the potential for automation to pave the way for globally competitive production systems to be created in Ontario’s agri-food sector.

Last year, the team received a grant from Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) to carry out this work.

The team has completed the first phase of the research and is now in the second phase, which involves Lemay conducting in-depth interviews with a sample of those in agricultural production.

While she’s heard from a number of farmers, she needs to connect with more, in addition to greenhouse growers.

“We’re particularly interested in farmers who have some experience with using automation and robotics technologies, but it’s not necessary for them to have that experience,” says Lemay, adding that she’s keen to know about their decision not to use such technologies and how they remain competitive in the sector.

Examples of automation and robotics technologies could include sensors in greenhouses and barns that monitor factors such as temperature, humidity, animal behaviour and feeding levels; GPS or GIS used in the field; machines to help with seeding and fertilization rates; and any kind of automation in harvesting, grading and sorting, among other innovations.

Subject areas Lemay aims to cover during interviews include:

  • A description of specific automation and robotics technologies farmers are using.
  • Why they’re using these technologies and what expectations they have for what the technologies will provide for them.
  • How long it took them to implement technologies and see the benefits.
  • From whom they get information about automation and robotics technologies, and who they interact with in the sector.
  • Who they think is responsible for promoting and supporting the adoption of these advanced technologies.

“I hope to capture a whole range of farmers’ past experiences and look into the future,” says Lemay. “I’m also interested in their impressions of what policies and programs have been effective in promoting and supporting the adoption of these technologies, and if they have any ideas on more effective policies and programs.”

Lemay says the one-on-one interviews are conducted by telephone and take about an hour to complete.

Those interested in becoming involved in the research should contact Lemay at

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