Telus turns its gaze to farm country

Company moves to establish better connectivity for free-flowing data – from the farm to consumer plates

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Tech giant Telus now has an agriculture division focused on increasing food security, safety, and productivity.

According to company representatives, part of achieving these overarching goals involves establishing better connectivity and promoting tech adoption on the farm.

Why it matters: Rural internet access and the inability to efficiently share data between technologies continue to be major issues in the agriculture sector. Addressing these problems comprises part of Telus’ wider digitization plan for global food production.

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A new divisions called Telus Agriculture was announced by company executives in a public web presentation on November 12, 2020. The new entity is globally focused, and leverages expertise and manpower from a wide swath of the food and agribusiness sector. This includes a number of previously and soon-to-be-acquired agricultural companies (e.g. AFS Technologies and Agrian, companies based in Florida and California respectively), as well as a range of other partners and consultants.

Darren Entwistle, chief executive officer for Telus, said the new division will “connect stakeholders across the entire agricultural ecosystem” in an effort to “optimize food production” as the global population continues to spike.

Recent pandemic-induced plant closures and other supply chain disruptions were mentioned as examples of current vulnerabilities, though ones preventable with better connectivity. Another example included the ability to reduce food waste by developing digital tools which allow retailers to track the temperature of a product through the entire supply chain.

Data silos, rural broadband

Telus Agriculture, as described by the company, has three overarching facets within its business strategy – the promotion of data transparency, elimination of data silos via the Internet of Thing, and a universal extension of top-tier internet connectivity.

For rural broadband – a long-standing issue in the farming community – Entwistle says the company intends to establish “a symmetrical urban and rural experience.”

Regarding siloed data systems and transparency, the company’s group president Francois Gratton indicated Telus intends to use strategies previously employed in its forays into the healthcare sector. Indeed, Gratton says lagging technology adoption, isolated participants, and poor data flow were and are issues common to both healthcare and agriculture.

Interconnected value chains

Establishing free flowing information for all stakeholders – that is, linking farm production data all the way to consumer plates, and everywhere between – is the company’s fundamental goal, and one requiring progress in the aforementioned areas.

Needs and opportunities where such systems could make a difference include proof of food sustainability, nutrition, and safety. Improvements in the continuity of supply, in overall trust, and higher profitability would be the result, according to those unveiling the new company division.

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Matt McIntosh

Matt is a freelance writer based between Essex County and Chatham-Kent. He is interested in all things scientific, as well as rock n' roll, hunting and history. He also works with his parents on their sixth-generation family farm.

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