Regenerative agriculture means working with nature not against it, but how technology fits into the picture is another question.
An average of 200 people participated in this first two nights of the RegenBC conference the province hosted this week. The event is the first public initiative as part of the Regenerative Agriculture and Agritech Network the province aims to develop.
Welcoming participants, BC Agriculture minister Lana Popham said technology can complement and advance what farmers are already doing to make agriculture more sustainable and a positive contributor to the environment.
But as she discovered, much depends on who’s wielding the technology.
During her opening remarks, activists disrupted the proceedings with digital graffiti calling for an end to fur farming. The activists gained control despite the conference being password protected.
Organizers disabled the chat function for the remainder of the event, preventing live question periods and conversations among participants.
The disruption was contrary to the positive spirit most participants displayed.
“We’ve got a big job and we all need to be pulling in the same direction,” said Organic BC co-president Heather Stretch in her opening remarks on the second night.
To get there, Tristan Banwell of Spray Creek Ranch in Lillooet said farmers need to get talking to one another and find out what’s working and how those practices can be adapted and applied on their own farms.
Heather Meberg of E.S. Cropconsult, which helps growers practice integrated pest management on more than 10,000 acres in the Lower Mainland, agreed.
“If [farmers] can see and touch it, and see that it makes sense, they’re going to adapt it,” she said of new practices and technology.
With success of growers like Spray Creek, Wild Flight Farm in Mara and Covert Farms in Oliver, local growers have several models.
The third night of the conference will present others, including keynote speaker Jeff Lee of Honey Bee Zen Apiaries in the Kootenays discussing how technology can play a role.