Articles, Blog

Built On Agriculture Part 4 – Feeding the World

August 8, 2019

(man) As we know, we’re not going to be
growing more farmland so we’re going to have to
produce way more products from the existing farmland
and find ways to increase our productivity
to feed a hungry world, which is what’s coming at us. [drums, guitar, & melodica
play in bright rhythm] [woman voices the credits] And the members of… (male narrator)
Lord Selkirk undertook
a great risk in settling the Highland clans
in the Red River Area. Through determination
and agricultural practice the settlers were able
to succeed beyond their
wildest expectations. But as the times have changed
so have the challenges, now farmers are faced with many
obstacles they must overcome to continue feeding the world. (Greg Selinger) For over 200
years, agriculture has been fundamental to the development
of settlement in Manitoba. On the arrival of the Selkirk
settlers, they established the first agricultural settlement
in Manitoba by Europeans. And since those days, it has
flourished in this province. It remains an important part
of our history, and an important
dimension of our future
development as a province. People have been migrating off
the farms and into cities and towns and the world just surpassed
that threshold where the majority of the world’s
population now lives in cities. There’s fewer
and fewer people on the farm, feeding more and more people
in the city, and I think that that trend
is likely to continue. (Gary MacDonald)
I think the big driver for agriculture now
is where we just surpassed 7 billion people
on this planet, and we’re moving to 9 billion. The 9 they anticipate
will happen about 2050. Some of the experts are
certainly anticipating that the worldwide
supply-demand curve will continue to be strong
for the foreseeable future. (narrator)
The high price of land
will be a challenge to the next generation
of farmers. If I was starting a farm today, typically I would be starting
probably with a relative. In a sense you’re trading the
lack of money for sweat equity. And that’s how I started
with my dad. I didn’t have a penny,
it was my dad’s money that we stuck into this farm. The price of land has increased
very, very quickly. With the bit of increase in
grain price, we often see that. (Gary MacDonald)
There is some young people who
that they can acquire are finding cropland and gradually work their way
and build their way into it, but it’s a growing challenge
for that to happen. As we see more
and more young people migrating to the cities
for jobs, there’s more demand on the parents
and on the rest of the family to produce more crop per acre
than what was ever done before in order to be profitable
and to exist. The future is unlimited. These businesses have a high
demand for skilled people, and for individuals that have
a genuine regard, enthusiasm
for production agriculture, that feel comfortable
in that environment, and increasingly sophisticated
customers. But it’s a global business. On the same hand, it’s all
about production agriculture and human food consumption
on a global basis. (narrator)
In just over a decade agricultural engineers
have discovered new and innovative methods
of farming. With these advances
in technology, farmers have seen the size of
their equipment and farms grow beyond
what was believed possible. (Mitch Rezansoff)
As the equipment now has computer technology
and wireless telecommunication, satellite technology, we have
started to provide services where we are now monitoring
the equipment remotely. In some instances, we know
when a piece of equipment is going to fail before
the farm manager knows it. The guys I know locally,
friends of mine who are tremendous farmers here
in this area of Manitoba, they’re not steering that
machine, they’re on their iPads and their cell phones, checking
what’s going on in the world relative to their crops
and their applications. The technology is phenomenal and how they apply it
to their farm operation. We’re starting to really
get into technology since we’ve been expanding.
We’re finding new things, especially with the new
mobile phones. It’s really helping us for
planning, for record-keeping and things like that
on our farm, that’s been something
that’s really been a plus. I just keep
a record of everything
that’s going on in the phone. So we’ve got a program here
called Farm At Hand. (Dr. Don Flaten) One of the
technologies that has developed along with large machinery size
is precision agriculture, which gives farmers the chance
to meter out different rates of fertilizer in
different portions of the field, to look at different rates
of pesticide applied in different areas of the field,
even to gauge crop growth. Some of this precision
agriculture technology has enabled large-scale farming
to still farm on a really site-specific basis. A farmer has to keep record of
everything that we’re doing on the farm from what
we’re putting on the field as far as inputs, taking
everything off, yields, what bins we’re keeping them in,
moisture, everything. We started to look at combine
work activity last year and pulling that data, how
the efficiencies of operators changed or within the same field
were different and why. GPS is one of the most major
breakthroughs in agriculture. Most of it we’re using
on our farm is for guidance. And if we have a tractor
without GPS, I don’t know whether I have
an operator for that. If you measure everything, you
now have very good knowledge, and so what you need to do to
ensure that I’m maximizing every single piece of equipment
across the farm. This is showing our moisture
here, our average moisture, instant bushels per acre, so
we’re coming up to about 70. (Mitch Rezansoff) At some point
in time, we will get to the point
where you will program that piece of equipment
to do a task in the field and it will get the job done
and operate itself. If we start to move towards more
autonomous equipment, where you don’t need an operator
in that piece of equipment, could you get away
with smaller equipment, but have more of it
in the field? I could see that coming
in the future. (narrator)
Climatologists across the world
have discovered that farmers are faced with
an environmental problem that could lead to serious
issues to the future of farming. Weather is what we get over
a short period of time. Climate is what you expect
to happen over longer periods of time. Climate change therefore,
indicates that what you expect
is changing. Climate change is something that
is going to be affecting us more and more, and I know
in my short lifetime, I’ve seen a lot of change
in our seasons and our weather conditions. If that continues, we don’t know
if it’s going to be a continual high water problem,
which would mean we have flood problems
on a permanent basis, or if it will be
a water scarcity problem. (Dr. Danny Blair)
The risk of drought is my number 1 concern
for the prairies. When we look at what the climate
models are saying about the coming decades,
our number 1 worry is water, not too much water, but not
enough water. Drought and wet periods,
or floods if you will, are a normal part of our climate
and they always will be, but the worrisome thing for me
is the climate model suggests that not only will
the summers get warmer, if that comes along with drier
summers, that tells me drought. It’s almost inevitable,
that no matter where we travel in the developing world,
when we talk to farmers, they will say something
to the effect that, you know, for hundreds and hundreds
of years for my fathers, and grandfathers
and great-grandfathers, they always knew that the rains
came at a certain date and now they say the rains don’t
come then anymore. Water scarcity is our
number 1 limiting resource and getting twice the crop
per drop is what they’re saying you need
to do around the world to feed the world going
into the future. What we’re going to be doing is
using research and technology to help improve productivity
and profitability for farmers. What I’ll be starting is
doing surveying and installing tile drainage. From that we’re hoping
to hold water that’s coming off the field, test to see what’s happening
with phosphorous. We’re hoping to multiply it
and then reimburse that water that has phosphorous from runoff and nitrates back onto our field
through irrigation. But properly installed tile
is going to help in a dry or a wet year? We’re not removing moisture
that’s actually going to dry the fields out too much,
we’re only taking off water that’s going to actually
hurt crop development. So having all this water
might be a tremendous asset. 20% of all the fresh water
in North America flows through Manitoba,
on average, sometimes more. So this is a real
ace in the hole. If you could capitalize in
storing some of that water when it’s here at
the wrong time, and then use it through the growing
season, we may be in a position to really be a dominant player
in world food production. (Dr. Danny Blair)
The growing season right now is about a whole month longer than it was around 1900,
and it’s a good change. The data clearly shows that this
is going to continue, so that maybe in 40 years or so, we’ll have another month
added to that frost-free season. (Dr. Danny Blair)
But the agronomists
will tell you that one of the consequences
of that is that although you might be allowed to
plant your crops earlier, that means that the maturation
dates of your crops are also changing, and those
may not necessarily line up with the precipitation patterns
that we’ve come accustomed to. (narrator)
Researchers have discovered ways to produce foods
that yield more per acre even in extreme conditions
through genetic modifications. (Peter Jones)
It’s a double-edged sword when you talk about
genetically-modified foods. On one hand, one has
a changing environment, almost unquestionably now,
either through drought, but also through temperature
variations, means it’s harder for producers, for farmers, to
have yields consistently. By modifying the genetics
around a plant, one came make them more robust,
more hardy, but of course, there are other
drawbacks in that process and one has to be very careful. When we start to look
at the types of risks that are associated
with this technology, they often fall into two camps. There’s a science-based risk,
in-the-field risk, but there’s also
a social, cultural, and economic risk
that isn’t even talked about when we talk about risk
assessment of this technology. Do the plants function
the same way as a regular plant in the field? And for the most part, they do,
they look the same, they function the same as the
plant, but the trick with this is that they’re
genetically different. And we’re just starting
to understand the full complexity
of what genomes can do, and so when you insert a gene
into a new genetic context, we don’t necessarily understand
the full implications of that. I think history has shown
that we’ve had 17 years now of GM crops being grown fairly
broadly across North America, and we’ve not had
any adverse effects. So this technology is safe,
so if people are concerned about it that way, I think we’ve
got a really good track record and a strong regulatory system
to ensure those products are safe
before they’re released. The GM crops that we grow have
helped us get higher yields, they’ve helped us deal
with some disease, and they’ve helped us be able
to plant these crops and be able to succeed as
a small business. If we hadn’t modified nature and
agriculture 50 to 100 years ago, we wouldn’t even be
on the Prairie, so everything is modified
in some way. Genetic modification is just practical application of science
to agriculture. We embrace science,
and we embrace innovation and we embrace biotechnology in absolutely every aspect
of our life, why wouldn’t we embrace it
in agriculture, and why wouldn’t we give those
same benefits to farmers and to food production to help
make our food better? I think this technology
is very interesting. I think it has huge promise
for the future of society if it is used properly, if we take into account that
there’s a larger public good that needs to be offered
if we’re going to crack into the genetic structure
of living organisms. It can’t be for profit. If we do it because it might
increase food for people, it might help with health
issues, it might allow us to transcend some of the ecological
problems that we face. Those are laudable reasons
to use the technology. The technology is not good
or bad, it’s how it’s used. I’m scared that consumers won’t
give farmers the freedom to be able to access those tools
and those innovations that can help make
a difference. Right? So I would argue that farmers
need more choices, more options,
yes, they need to be regulated, yes they need to be proven
to be safe, but we need innovation
in order to progress. There are people that think
we should go back to how our grandparents
used to farm. That’s a nice viewpoint, but it’s not going to
feed 9 billion people. (narrator)
Advances in food science
has proven to produce more food
on less land. Researchers are now
discovering ways to make food more nutritious. Through scientific studies
of individual diets, these scientists have discovered key ingredients
for personal nutrition. I think we all know that there
is going to be a food shortage, that we’re gonna have to really
be concerned in the future and that we have to start
considering this food to be nutritional, to be nutrient
dense, that we have to think about how
this is going to affect people
on a worldwide level. We have very significant
investments in the kinds of foods that
people want to eat, there’s a greater shift now towards
healthier foods, and we have one of the best research
consortiums in the world. (Peter Jones)
Agriculture appears to be moving towards higher production
and higher health benefits. We’re seeing this from all
commodity groups. They really want to be looking
at human health benefits. Nutraceuticals
and functional foods is actually the road to go down,
it is the next evolution, and taking these ingredients and putting them into the foods
themselves, and preventing some of the
diseases and effects that we’re gonna experience
down the road as we age, we can do a great service
to the consumers, to healthcare, to governments. (Dylan McKay) There’s lots
of snake oil out there too, is the biggest problem
with this industry is there’s so many products out there that
claim health benefits and don’t have the hard scientific
evidence to back it up. There’s such a lot of scientific
data now that speaks to how, depending on how you reach out
in the supermarket, you can really impact
your body’s metabolic state and therefore, it’s risk to
certain degenerative disease. As a research scientist,
I’m thinking about consumer all the time,
as the Canadian public, as worrying about pressure
on our healthcare system, that all of this science needs
to get to the people who need to benefit from it. The benefit to the consumer
of research in this agriculture continuum that spans from the farm
to the fork, we’re really getting
a better hold on how the various ingredients found in these commodities
can make us healthier and improve wellness
of Canadians overall. (narrator)
The Canadian International
Grain Institute otherwise known as CIGI,
is teaching farmers what their crops are being
used for across the world. By promoting this knowledge,
farmers can continue to provide nations with
the highest quality grains We take this current knowledge, this currency of knowledge
that we’ve got, and it’s only useful if you
give it to people. Eh? Today we’re doing
our program here with 25 pretty senior farmers from all across Western Canada,
helping them understand how their grain that they’re
producing is used by their customers
around the world. So this is our pasta
and extrusion plant and our main focus here
is durum wheat. (Earl Geddes) Part of extending that global market knowledge
that we’ve got, that’s the big role that CIGI’s got,
making sure that our customers, or potential customers for
Canadian field crops understand we’re growing some
of the very best, safest, healthiest food
in the world. These provincial food
development centers are critical to moving innovation forward
into the marketplace. (narrator)
As the world’s population
continues to grow, distribution of food
will become critical. I don’t want to be the one,
I don’t think anybody wants
to be the one who decides who gets to eat
and who doesn’t get to eat. It’s a very, very hard concept
for North Americans to understand because
we’ve never been hungry. It’s not always the case
for other people. Foodgrains Bank
got started in the mid ’70s. It started because there were
famines and food needs in Asia and Africa,
but here in North America, particularly in Canada,
there was food surplus. We need to think
really seriously not just about what we have and what we want, but what is
best for people who don’t have the same access and the same
luxuries that we do. The Canadian government
is one of the most stable and generous funders
of food aid in the world. The government has made
a commitment to make sure that there is
money available every year for humanitarian assistance,
for food assistance, to make sure that people around
the world have food to eat. (Dr. Danny Blair)
We should always be concerned about feeding the world. The population is over 7 billion
and continues to rise. Although there have been major
increases in crop productivity and expansion around the world,
the specter of climate change, it’s worrisome what it might do
to those benefits, those gains that we’ve made in
feeding the world’s population. So we’re trying to figure out,
how can you produce more food on that same amount of land
or less land in order to meet the demands
of a growing world. And honestly, we don’t suffer
from food shortages here, but if you look
at the developing world, which is the fastest-growing
area of biotech crop production, it is the difference between life and death
or feeding your family, or being able
to send your child to school. We, of course, would like to see
everyone in the world have enough food to eat, and we
would like for everyone everywhere in the world
to have access to all the food they need to
lead healthy and active lives. (narrator)
Lord Selkirk would be
justifiably proud of his agricultural experiment
of the Northern Great Plains. Aided by education
and technology, today’s farmers seem equal to the challenge
of feeding us and the world. (Morris Deveson)
And they were told, this is
a land of ice and snow, it’s fur country and you can’t
farm here, it’s not possible. (Jacquie Aitken)
Land that you could have, and it
could be yours and yours alone, and it was free
and it was free to you. If you worked hard, nobody
would take it away from you. (Lord Selkirk)
Thomas 5th Earl of Selkirk
was an idealist and a philanthropist, and he
inherited a very large fortune, and he used that fortune to charter ships
to Red River Settlement, which turned out to be
the beginning of Winnipeg. (Phyllis Fraser)
The hardships were huge,
they had huge challenges, and without the support
of Chief Peguis and his people, they would have starved. (Blair Rutter)
The ownership of land
and the respect for property, that was something
that was really important to the Selkirk Settlers,
and why they were so determined to persevere in the face
of all these hardships. (Dr. Paul Earl)
What of course,
sparked the settlement in any kind of numbers,
in any kind of volume, was the building of the CPR. Sir John A. Macdonald’s
intention was to tie the country together. (Laura Rance)
It’s been said that
if men were the pioneers, women were the settlers. They were the ones
that created a home, and they were doing this
all the time while they were caring for
and producing children. (Curt Vossen)
Winnipeg was the gateway
to Western Canada, and it was a headquarters
of the agricultural business in Western Canada,
particularly the grain trade. (John Heimbecker)
Almost 90% of all
of the grain in Canada was delivered
to the cooperatives. Today there are
no more cooperatives. (Bill Matheson)
In my personal opinion, the
Wheat Board was a perfect tool. I didn’t have to wake up
in the morning and say, oh, where’s the market today? (Peter Cox)
The idea that the farmer
cannot sell his own property, I find it abhorrent. (Mike McAndless)
There’s an old saying
in risk management that if you don’t manage
your risks, they can very well end up
managing you. (Cam Henry)
The biggest factor that effects
how well my farm produces is the weather,
and I can’t control it. That’s a tough game to be in if the biggest influencing
factor you can’t control. (Brett Sheffield)
I’m extremely passionate
about farming. It’s something that I wake up
every day thinking about, it’s something that on my off
time I spend time researching, whether for planting a seed
or watching to make sure that it’s growing
or there to harvest it. And watch something
that we’ve done in
the beginning of the year and see how it turns out
in the output in the end and we’re there along
every step of the way. (Marg Rempel)
We can’t always count
on the financial rewards to carry us through, so
sometimes we need the passion, we just need the plain grit
to get us through some of
the more difficult times. (Jim Janzen)
If we have a tractor
without GPS, I don’t whether I have
an operator for that. (Trish Jordan)
There are people
that think we should go back to how our grandparents
used to farm. That’s a nice viewpoint, but it’s not going to
feed 9 billion people. (John Longhurst)
Food is sort of the baseline, it
means just having what you need so that you can pursue
the life that you dream of or that you hope for
for your children. [drums & melodica
play in bright rhythm] [woman voices
the following credits] And the members of… To order a copy of the 4-part
series “Built on Agriculture,” call or visit
our on-line store…


  • Reply Stella Bar July 12, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    I am disappointed you provided a format in this segment for Monsanto. Also that they are part funders.. It is a pro Monsanto commercial and I am surprised at Prairie Public and PBS in general for taking their money. We are better off not having this programming, even though it started out fascinating.

  • Reply Jim Boak November 8, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Technology is taking the farmer out of the farm. One day we will wake up with no real farmers left just suites in an office making decisions based strictly on the size of the # in the black column and making sure that the corporation meets the minimum environmental requirements set by law.

  • Reply Jim Boak November 8, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Are we more concerned about producing more feed and food at any cost than we are about how all people are going to pay for food/feed/fuel? In the developed nations we eath 2x as much as we need, waste 2x as much as we eat. Are we being manipulated into increased production and increased technology for the wrong reasons?

  • Reply Stjepan Suman December 18, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    14:00 "we would not be on a praire if there is not GMO". Who we? Monsanto or people in general. people were there even when climate was more harsh and when there was no mechanisation.

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