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FOOD AUTONOMY | AND INNOVATIONS IN ALL THIS?

Opinion letter

By Marilou Cyr, director | Zone Agtech

If it is said that Quebec is currently on pause, this is far from being the case for the Quebec agriculture and agrifood industry which is making unprecedented efforts to feed the Quebec population. Agricultural producers, some armed with their children, must compete in imagination to operate an agricultural season that is anything but normal with several challenges, including restrictive hygiene measures and, for many, the unpredictable arrival of foreign workers.

In times of crisis, the reflex is to consolidate the achievements and operate as much as possible “as usual”. But, as the saying goes, exceptional situation, exceptional measure.

In Quebec, we see the vulnerability of our food security. But while we are mainly talking about the problems related to the arrival of temporary foreign workers, here is an important question to ask, which we will no longer escape: will we one day be able to have food autonomy while remaining dependent on labor, and all the more so, on foreign labor? The answer is no. Not in 2020, not in the context of a labor shortage which was already present before the crisis and which will certainly remain thereafter.

Until recently, experts mentioned global food security challenges for 2030-2040, but this reality strikes us today, 10 to 20 years in advance. The COVID-19 crisis is therefore an opportunity that must be seized in order to anticipate the transformation of the agricultural sector towards efficient agriculture, but also more innovative and more sustainable. Autonomous electric robot, precision farming, artificial lighting and reproduction of controlled environment to cultivate winter and summer must take up more space in our agriculture.

Quebec promoters of innovative agricultural technologies (agtech) have joined together in an unprecedented initiative, led by the Zone Agtech, to come to the aid of agricultural producers during this period of crisis, as well as in anticipation of the post-covid phase. Concrete solutions are proposed to increase agricultural yield and reduce hiring needs. They come from companies such as U2Grow 365, LBM-Agtech, ÉAU, Ulysse Biotechnologies, Chrysalabs, Agrilog, Systèmes Vireo, Earth Alive clean technologies et Nectar.

Innovative agricultural technologies are an important – if not critical – part of the recovery plan for the development of the agriculture of tomorrow.

In this context, we must collectively redouble our efforts and deploy resources in accelerated time to support innovative agtech companies and agricultural producers in this necessary turn, in order to increase profitability, performance, autonomy and sustainability of the sector, and achieve better food security and sovereignty.