Lukas Schilder is a chicken farmer in Huron County with centuries of farming in his bloodline. Like others in the agriculture sector, he is keenly aware of the advantages that adopting new technology brings to his business. Looking to invest in a new chicken barn, Schilder and his family recognize an opportunity to connect their farm operations with the expectations of consumers and grow their brand.
Guided by a sector-wide commitment to animal welfare, Schilder is planning to equip a new free-range facility with cutting-edge technology designed to monitor and broadcast information about the state of his flock to stakeholders. Some of the technology being considered involves a live 24/7 public video feed to demonstrate the care and treatment his chickens receive.
“We stay engaged with industry best-practices both in North America and Europe and operations all over the world are adopting new technology to meet marketplace demands, which include consumer information about the realities of growing food,” said Schilder. “Our farm needs access to high-speed Internet to be competitive.”
In April, Huron County Council partnered with Comcentric – a cooperative of local Internet service providers – to submit a funding proposal to the Government of Canada’s Connect to Innovate program. The project proposes to connect 98% of Huron County’s population, including the Schilder farm, with high-speed fibre within three years. Expected to cost $31.5 million, the project requires a partnership with the Government of Canada to proceed. To leverage an investment by the federal government, Huron County Council has committed $7 million over seven years.
“With fibre connectivity we would be able to have all of our records for the entire growth period for each group of chickens recorded electronically and shared in near real-time with our vet, processing plant, food safety board and humane care program,“ added Schilder. “We would have an opportunity to be world leaders in the poultry industry.”
Huron County is one of the most agriculturally productive regions in Ontario with annual commodity receipts totalling $1.2 billion.
“High-speed fibre connecting our farmers to the marketplace has the potential to unlock incredible value within our agriculture sector,” said Warden Jim Ginn. “Whether it’s to join consumers to producers or creating opportunities for value-added product development by the agri-food industry, rural access to high-speed Internet would benefit the entire economy.”