Prepping 4th graders for a future in farm tech

This week we talked about how farming is changing and how tech is being used in ways that help and redefine career opportunities in agriculture.

At Farm Femmes we are really passionate about learning and teaching - and if we can teach a 4th grader how machine vision can apply on the farm, we feel confident you and your kids can learn how machine vision can help your operations. Want help getting started?

Reach us at karen@farmfemmes.com or teresa@farmfemmes.com or message us on any of our social media platforms. We’d love to add you to our announcement list for Farm Femmes camps this summer teaching machine vision and agriculture algorithms, if you’d like to hear about dates BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE get in touch and we’ll add you to our e-mail mailing list!

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Machine Vision in Ag: Applications

It doesn’t matter if you call it Artificial Intelligence (AI), algorithms or machine vision, when you are talking about the future of Agriculture, the potential application of ‘big data’ is both exciting and daunting. We have been talking about how kids can approach learning how to code a machine vision model that prepares them for the future of technology in agriculture, but we know it can be a bit ambiguous. So we picked out 3 YouTube videos we think show cool ag applications of machine vision that will help you to come up with what problems you would love to have solved with machine vision.

A simple solution to set up is security cameras that can be used in a huge variety of ways. From driveway monitoring to remote bin site monitoring to securing your yard site security cameras are a great start to machine vision. Below is a simple set up is below, and to expand after video capture a machine vision model can be trained to detect activity you want to monitor and alert you. An application there is a ton of YouTube videos on are machine vision for cameras in calving barns.

  • Barn Cam by Shelley Paulson from Minnesota

A more complex solution that shows the amazing power of machine vision when incorporated into agriculture equipment is the See and Spray technology being developed by Blue River.

The same concepts used in both of these examples are the types of technologies and skills the kids you are raising now will be using. If you’d like your kids to be equipped with these skills, or you have problems you would like them to solve, we would love to hear from you! Message us on our social platforms or send us an e-mail directly to karen@farmfemmes.com or teresa@farmfemmes.com.

Machine Vision

As Teresa and I speak at conferences, we often share about the progress being made in Machine Vision and how it applies in SO many ways in our life (today), and our life (in the future).

On Monday’s blog, we asked you to think about how you recognized the crop below as wheat. The challenge of machine vision is how to help a computer to learn to recognize what wheat is (colors, kernel size, still standing, harvested etc.).

To make these problems approachable to kids, we have leveraged the framework Amazon Web Services (AWS) has created to help beginning developers to understand machine vision. One of the sample projects is ‘hot dog’ or ‘not a hot dog’ which seems simple enough until you think of all of the variations that need to be accounted for (ketchup on it, mustard, relish, bratwurst, casing, pre-smoked, footlong, bun). Who knew a hot dog could be so complex! Then think about how that applies to agriculture, and it can be pretty overwhelming, so we started our kid-friendly project with telling crops apart.

Being able to tell crops apart are key to many different opportunities in agriculture:

  • Ariel imagery (acres planted in each crop)

  • Sorting of commodities as they are delivered (green soybeans)

  • Recognizing ‘wheat’ or ‘not wheat’ (weed detection)

  • Recognizing ‘insect’ or ‘not insect’ (and counting the number of insects detected)

We were not sure at the start of this project if a 4th grader could figure this out, with limited adult guidance, and we are happy to say he has! So, if a 4th grader can do it, the opportunities in agriculture are limitless. Interested in your kids (ages 8-15) learning how Machine Vision works in a 1 day Farm Femmes camp? Send us an e-mail at karen@farmfemmes.com or teresa@farmfemmes.com and we will add you to the pre-public camp dates e-mail list!



Ag-telligence

One of the funniest memories I have as a kid, is when we would play ‘what’s that crop’ on any of the drives we went on with my Dad. As a kid, I could NEVER tell crops apart in the spring, I was absolutely terrible at the game. After this year’s science fair project, I see my kids being able to play this game, with a pretty high chance of being right!

We have spent this winter exploring the ways in which modern agriculture is already adopting Artificial Intelligence. While we have been learning about the amazing progress being made in image recognition and what that may look like in the future of farming (robotic field scouts, weed recognition, plant color etc.), we have been thinking about ways to get the next generation on our farms ready and prepared with the skills that will help them to be early adopters of farming technology.

So, this year when science fair came along and my son wanted to do something with the Artificial Intelligence programming I use in my high tech job it was a perfect opportunity to see if image recognition could work on the farm.

This week we will share a little about how science fair led to a cool idea of how to bring farming tech to kids!

For fun, below is a picture of wheat. How do you know it’s wheat? That’s all of the things we have to teach a computer to ‘know’ without the benefit of all of the ride along’s to town with my Dad!

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International Women's Day


Each day people around the world are working, and sometimes fighting, to make this place we share one of mutual respect and equality.  

Some of those causes are global, while others take place within a single room in our home or workplace.  

They are all important.

Today is a day when we set aside time to recognize the work that has already been done, and the achievements already made.  We can reflect on the current state. We can strategize about our role and our next steps in creating #BalanceforBetter.

This week I posted about my goal of learning to drive a semi as a way to contribute to our farm.  In no way does this mean that every FarmFemme should set that as a goal, nor is that a way by which to measure her farm contribution.  The real goal is that we all get to choose how we contribute and that our choices are respected.

#IWD2019


Why Driving Rules Matter to Farmers

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The debate about the usefulness of mandatory training in the farming sector is an interesting, complex and nuanced one.  If you have been reading this blog for any period of time you know that we are extremely committed to safety and creating a culture of safety on our farms.  Having said that, many farm kids experience driving opportunities at a very young age - for instance I remember driving the quad and riding lawn mower before I reached double digits.  

Now, as I seek to obtain my Class 1, my whole goal is to be able to safely bring a load of grain to the elevator. I do not want to do any hauling that requires mountain driving, international driving, securing loads or maintaining a log book.  The training that would meet these needs differs from that needed by a full time commercial driver.

Saskatchewan and Alberta have rules in place to require Mandatory Entry Level Training; both provinces have provided some flexibility for farms, although each took differing approaches. It is important to recognize that farms face challenges in finding skilled labor and additional requirements add to these challenges. By acknowledging that a farmers’ ability to transport their goods has a ripple effect across industries and on the economy as a whole we can work with regulating bodies and training providers to make sure we are all safe without disrupting our food systems.

Although my desire to complete my Class 1 licence was motivated by personal timing, I can see that the demand for formal training is high.  I am scheduled into the first available time for my selected training course - July. I guess that gives me a lot of time to practice my shifting!


Read below for other provincial requirements.

There are currently no Class 1 training requirements in Manitoba.  The government is in the process of consulting with industry in order to develop training rules or regulations.  Estimates of a January 2020 implementation date have been circulating.


As of March 15, 2019, Saskatchewan requires a Mandatory Entry Level Training of 121.5 hours of training, however those with licences before the new rules came into effect do not have to complete the training and farmers driving within the province are exempt.  


As of March 1, 2019 Alberta requires a Mandatory Entry Level Training of 113 hours of training, not including air brakes.  Those with a Class 1 licence prior to October 11, 2018 will not be required to take the training, while those who obtained their licence after that date will be required to participate.  Farmers may apply for an exemption, which will be available on March 15th and be valid until November.

Ontario requires 103.5 hours of training.  This requirement came into effect July 1, 2017.

New Driver on board: Lessons Learned

So far in the journey of learning how to get a Class 1 licence in Manitoba I have learned a few things.  Of course, some of them have to do with driving, but there are also some things I have learned about the process.

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  • You may purchase physical copies of the manuals OR you may download them for free. Professional Driver   AirBrake

  • You must book a written test for your Air Brakes and for your Class 1, each costing $10.  You can complete these tests back-to-back, but you require two different access codes. You can book these appointments at any insurance office that works with Manitoba Public Insurance, but they are completed at an MPI service center.

  • Driving quizzes are available online to help you study/practice.

  • It makes life easier if you pick up your medical form from MPI or any insurance office and complete your medical before you pass your written tests.  Request a copy of your completed medical, so you don’t have to wait until it is processed in the MPI system. This allows you to get your temporary licence printed out right after you pass your written tests.

  • Your eye exam can be completed at an MPI office, free of charge.  (Your doctor’s office may charge you to complete this part.)

  • The tests are multiple choice and are completed on a computer.  You have the option to skip questions one time, but they may reappear in which case you cannot skip them a second time.

After you have successfully completed your medical and written tests you can being practicing behind the wheel!  Requirements differ significantly from province to province. Check back in tomorrow to get an overview of the differences, and why they matter.




First 60 Days - Check In Time

This year one of my goals is to be able to take a load of grain to the elevator.  

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To me this represents being a tangible help to our farming operation. However, it also means that I have some serious learning to do.  I have to learn how to drive our 10 speed Eaton transmission trucks OR I have to get my Class 1 licence. In the end, I actually hope to do both and to be able to drive all of the trucks on our farm.

In order to do that I need to meet the licensing requirements in Manitoba which means getting a Class 1 licence and Air Brake endorsement to drive our semi tractor and trailer.  The process involves several steps:

  • Written test for Class 1 licence ($10)

  • Written test for Air Brakes ($10)

  • Medical, including vision check (MPI will do the vision screen at no cost)

  • Practice period, where you must be accompanied by a passenger with a current and valid Class 1 license (minimum two weeks)

  • Optional: Driver training school (not currently mandated; keep reading this week for more info on upcoming changes)

  • Road test (Class 1 and Air Brakes tests can be completed at the same time, if you do not previously hold the Air Brake endorsement) ($50)

I have completed my written tests and my medical, so I have my “new licence” which allows me to legally drive with a qualified passenger.  Yah! Check back tomorrow to see what I have learned so far.



Sold! to the highest (online) bidder

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The look, and sound, of auctions has changed in recent years as more companies provide buyers with the opportunity to participate in online bidding.  As an auction buyer this has changed the auction experience, in obvious, and not so obvious ways.


Why attend in person?

You just can’t get the same thrill of the auction if you aren’t there live.  Plain and simple. We want to attend local auctions in person because they give us a great opportunity to socialize and network with neighbours.  Although we always have an eye out for a deal that is too good to pass up, the items for sale are not always the main reason we attend local auctions.

Why attend online?

Some auctions are provinces away, but have one very specific item that we are interested in purchasing.  Online bidding allows us to participate in a larger number of auctions than ever before. As a buyer, we can find specialized items while saving time and money on travel. As a seller, it is great to increase your buying audience outside your immediate geographical area.


Purchasing at a distance has changed the dynamics at auction sales, both in the demographics and geography of those who attend.  Both in person and online auction services are valuable. We, personally, shop for different items when we are buying online, since we haven’t had the opportunity to get a close look or listen to the item.  It is also somewhat easier to avoid the emotion of competitive bidding when it feels like you are bidding against the computer and not the person in the camo hat. However, it can be challenging to remind yourself to be realistic about post-sale transportation for large items or long hauls.


It really is great to have the best of both auction worlds.  Buyers and sellers benefit when potential markets expand.


Auction purchases can be memorable because of the item, the price or the experience. Comment and tell us about your best auction purchase.