Agritech is a key part of the future of farming.

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Robots milking dozens of cows at a time, drones whizzing through the air scaring birds away from delicate crops and lasers cutting chicken pieces into nuggets at a mind boggling speed — these innovations aren’t in the background of some sort of sci-fi flick.

They are proven tools in food production and more of their kind will be required in the future, said BC Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick.

Letnick, who was speaking at the Agritech Innovation Challenge being held in Kelowna, said he’s been amazed by these and other technologies put in place at farms across B.C., since he became the agriculture minister.

They’re what’s needed to make agriculture a viable career option for future generations of farmers to make ends meets.

“At the end of the day if we want to encourage young people to take over our farms—take over our processing plants—we have to make sure there is an opportunity for them to make money,” said Letnick.

There’s also a need to create technologies that will allow for further sustainable practices in farming.

Dave Smardon with Bioenterprise Corporation told the crowd there will be nine billion people by 2050, but little new arable land is expected to come into production over the next few decades. At the same time, water supplies continue to be taxed.

Already, 70 per cent of the world’s freshwater is used in agriculture and, he said, by 2050 we have to produce more food than the entire human history of this planet to match a population of nine billion.

“The only way we can resolve some of these issues is through agri-innovation,” he said.

Some of these agri-innovations are coming from the Okanagan.

Andrew Greer from Accelerate Okangan told the crowd that it’s not just apps being made in the valley.

“There’s a whole lot of technology that’s less talked about,” he said.

Among the developments he listed were drone companies that examine crop yields, moisture, disease and pests. Another example is a shrimping that pulls shrimp out of Okanagan Lake and turns it into frozen and dry fish food.

“They’re turning the fish food industry upside down,” he said.

Agri-tech helps support agriculture in communities throughout the province and the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agrifood and Seafood Strategic Growth Plan’s goals of increasing farmland in production by 91,000 hectares, and the sector generating $15 billion in annual revenue by 2020.

The Agritech Innovation Challenge is designed to bring together venture capitalists, food producers and technology experts to enhance the competitiveness and resiliency of the province’s agri-food sector.

The Agritech Innovation Challenge was organized and managed by the BC Innovation Council, a crown agency of the Province of BC

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