Bringing Kaizen to the Farm this Harvest

A Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices. Made popular by Nissan’s Just in Time Manufacturing.


How can prairie farmers bring kaizen to the farm this harvest?

Growing up on a farm, my favourite piece of machinery was the swather.  I think I loved swathing so much because it was the most simplistic piece of machinery on the farm and couldn’t have large breakdowns as a lot of other larger machinery on the farm – plus the joystick for the header was like a playstation controller.  At around 17 years old, my dad bought an autosteering accessory that could hook up to any power steering, and we hooked it up to our swather that year.  As a 17 year old with the attention span of a goldfish, this is now remembered by me as one of my favourite past times on the farm since the only maintenance now needed was to replace the odd sickle (the piece that’s doing the cutting) that broke every hour or so.  The autosteer allowed the swather to drive in straight lines, which meant that I could pay more attention to the height that the wheat or canola was being cut, which allowed for a better process for when the combine came into the field after swathing.  The one thing I dreaded, was when my dad or grandpa wanted to straight cut a field.  Why?  Because straight cutting takes the swather out of the scenario.  My favourite part of harvest, but a barrier in front of kaizen.

Straight cutting is the technique that takes out the swather from the process.  To my astonishment lots of people that don’t come from farms know what a swather is, so let’s start by showing a picture of a swather, a combine with a normal header, and a combine with a straight cut header.

The benefit to the farmer from a business perspective is massive.  Removing the swather is a huge advantage when it comes to reducing shatter (when you lose or damage seeds by handling them too much), reducing manpower, & reducing time (weather is chaotic and there’s always a small window during harvest).

Cost reduction is the number one perspective, but there is also the consideration of a wet year like this year.  Since combines are very heavy, there is a large chance of getting stuck on wet land with a heavier piece of machinery.  A swather on wet years like this year allows a high moisture crop during harvest to be cut earlier, which may allow the field itself to dry faster as you’re giving more exposure to the land to dry.  This happened during the harvest of 2011 when we had to use a very small 20′ swather to harvest a crop, let the crop dry, and then harvest it once the land dried.  We learned the hard way though as we initially tried to straight cut it, and a couple excavator bills later we decided that wasn’t an option as the field was way too wet.  This is an anomaly though.

Besides the fact that a wet year can make a swather a necessity, a normal dry harvest can create the environment for completely cutting out the combine, and make swathers a favourite past time.  Straight cutting wheat isn’t at all new, but it’s only been becoming mainstream with canola in the early part of the past decade.  The main reason for this is because the pods of canola that hold the seeds are like pea pods, that once you touch them when completely dry, they pop open to release the seeds fairly easily.  As the canola seeds within the pods have to turn from green to black before you can combine them, a lot of biotechnology companies are in the process of making canola varieties that have pods that hold the seeds in for longer, which is proving to be a daunting task.  A lot of varieties are starting to prove success though, which means a lot of farms that think of canola as their cash crop can consider putting less money into swathing.  Check out this video about Crispr, a technology on the forefront of fixing this process:

Minus the fact that it requires millions to develop new genetic varieties of canola and that can be left up to the biotech companies, what processes within this year’s wetter than normal harvest can be improved?  What is your farm doing during harvest every year that seems like a cost that could be avoided?  Post your problem to and a group of students will attempt a fix at Emerging Ag 2017!

Learn more about straight cutting canola at



2016 Winning Solutions!

The Grand Prize presented by KPMG:

Real-time Green Seed Detection

Luke McCreary, Charley Sprenger, Ian Paulson, Erik Tetland, Gavin Whitmore

A solution to finding green canola seed counts right on the combine, without having to stop the machine, without spilling seeds out of the paddle, without guessing about how many samples to take.  This proposed green seed detection device still looks at the amount of green seed in a crushed sample, but by using innovative light detection methods the manual testing procedure has been automated. Now, sampling is performed right on the clean grain elevator of the combine with this retrofit solution. Take seed samples on demand, or continuously sample in the background and display results on the fly in the cab.

Award of Innovation presented by Square One:

Early Warning System Against Plant Disease

Brent Puchalski

The project is to develop an early warning system against disease for a farmer’s field. It will able to detect diseases at least a week before signs of infection can be seen. Using specially designed spore traps and real time polymerase chain reaction, fungal spores can be collected and identified in as little as a day. This ability to monitor a field on the microscopic level quickly allows for farmers to make better management decisions.


The Rookie Award presented by VendAsta Technologies

On Farm 

Corey Hickson, Zoe Mao, Uchi Uchibeke

OnFarm is a web app which aims to solve the problems farmers face each year when choosing seed varieties using the SaskSeed Guide. The app is designed to allow farmers to connect through reviews and discussion about different varieties and focusses on creating relevant and important information to make finding new seed varieties easier, faster, and a more informed decision altogether. Farmers submit reviews on the seed varieties they have grown including information such as crop yield, what the season was like, where it was grown, and any additional comments they want. This information compiled allows farmers to collaborate to see actual geographically relevant results about how well seed varieties are performing.

Using Machine to Machine Technology to solve a real world problem in the Livestock Industry

1st Place – Stefan Belev, Luke McCreary, Tom Hilderman, Charley Sprenger, Ian Paulson, Gavin Whitmore

Problem Statement:

Breeding timing is largely guess work at this point, with exact date of insemination almost impossible to establish for natural­breeding operations. This would require continued human monitoring – an obvious challenge for multiple pastures, or pastures located at a distance.  With knowledge of insemination timing, workforce planning can be improved during birthing periods, and breeding success can be further monitored. Additional, bull­cow pairing is difficult to establish with traditional insemination approaches.


1. When a bull mounts a cow: 

a. The acceleration sensor activates a relay, powering the RFID reader and transmitter.

b. The RFID reader logs the cow that was mounted and the date. Data is transmitted to

c. The RFID reader and transmitter depower.

2. If a cow is mounted more than once, the most recent event is logged as the insemination date.



Convenience ­ farmers don’t have to observe breeding in person, saving time and effort

Planning ­ farmers can accurately predict calving, allowing for better workforce planning

Data logging – farmers will now be able to track:

· Gestation periods, allowing for even better calving prediction

· Cow insemination, allowing for inactive cows to be identified and sold

· Genealogy, allowing for better breeding programs to be created

· Bull productivity and health 

2nd Place – Camille Presber, Tasia Presber

Problem Statement: 

There is a need for tracking and monitoring of the health and whereabouts of all livestock on a farm. To monitor disease, illness, and injury amongst the entire herd, while paying special attention to the premium animals on the farm such as bulls, horses, and other scare and expensive livestock. 



A central device will be maintained at the coral to gather and transmit data. 

Class one – A standard ear tagging will be integrated with a Bluetooth system that will monitor heart rate, temperature, and tracking. This data will be uploaded via Bluetooth twice a day as cattle are driven through the coral. This devised is based on general information gathering on the entire herd, twice a day. This will extend battery life, and compile data used to research the entire herd. 

Class two – Premium, offers constant tracking and real-time fit bit like monitoring of the animal. Integrated with a SIM card for constant and immediate access too the animal, used will be able to access premium information on-demand such Body Temp, Oxygen Levels, Locations, Heart-rate, Respiration. All other this data will be transmitted to Sasktel for analysis, to help farmed maintain their investments. This can be implemented on all premium animals and applied to specifically targeted animals through a flex leasing structure. A bath of 20-30 would be purchased by the farm, some of the devices would be used as a spare, while other would be occasionally activated for sick animals. 

3rd Place – Jack Vu, Ashley Van Meter

Problem Statement:  

Free Range Egg production is becoming a growing demand.  Ethically produced chickens and eggs generates many challenges to producers. How can we implement a new solution for raising chickens more ethically and healthier?


We have decided to use the space where chickens are kept in a way that is healthier and more efficient.  We have decided to build a maze, we would construct the maze out of plants or hedges, something natural. To simplify, early morning, we will use the automatic door to move the chicken to the maze. The food stations and water stations are position and operate such that the chicken will need to move away from the house as much as they can and only 1 food or water station is open at a time. We have they with ankle chip with each chicken to manage if any go missing and to collecting egg if the chip data indicate its unusual movements. At night, the automatic door will move all the chicken back to the hen house. 

Thanks to all teams that participated! We hope you continue to pursue your ideas, and Emerging Agriculture will be with you every step of the way to bring them to reality.

Emerging Ag 2016 comes to a close. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Emerging Agriculture 2016 is in the books! I want to say a huge thanks to all of the volunteers, participants, and sponsors for helping us make such a worthy initiative such a successful event. From all of the changes we made to creating this year’s event, I think we in the organizing committee can say that the participants of this year’s event will be coming back next year for more.  The ideas that came out of this year’s groups has inspired me to work as hard as I can before I graduate this upcoming semester to create an even larger organizing committee than this year’s to continually enhance this event. I don’t think I’ve ever had a day where I’ve been this tired, but I have never been so satisfied with the hard work we all put into this event. I am so happy to have all of you in my life to have helped make such a great event.


On to Emerging Agriculture 2017!

Rory Nussbaumer

Committee Chair – Emerging Agriculture ’16

2016 Participant and Spectator Applications and Idea Wall are now open!

Emerging Agriculture is proud to have applications and our Idea Wall open for 2016! Apply on your own or a group to

Emerging Agriculture’s Idea Wall is also now live at
Posting your idea gives it exposure to many other participants that have skills that complement you or your teams to bring it to market! Your idea could also be featured on our physical Idea Wall that is around University of Saskatchewan Campus and Crop Production Show!

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EA 2016 Announced!

Emerging Agriculture 2 will be January 9th-11th 2016 at Innovation Place! Building off of our initial year, Emerging Agriculture will have more ideas, more marketing engagement across the University of Saskatchewan and Crop Production Show, and triple the amount of participants! Stay posted for updates on this year’s hackathon and how you can participate.

-Rory Nussbaumer
Committee Chair – Emerging Agriculture 2016