Helping Saskatchewan Farmers Cope With Stress
Innovation Saskatchewan, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, is asking technology entrepreneurs to develop a way for farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers to monitor their mental health. This latest Innovation Challenge aims to address a growing concern within Saskatchewan where calls to the farm stress line in 2018-2019 doubled from the previous year.
“Mental health is a concern within every industry but particularly acute in agriculture,” Minister Responsible for Innovation Saskatchewan Tina Beaudry-Mellor said. “Our government believes technology can provide help to farm families dealing with this complex and demanding issue.”
The Innovation Challenge, launched on March 5, asks for expressions of interest from Saskatchewan-based companies and entrepreneurs to answer the following: What technological solutions can assist Saskatchewan farmers in actively monitoring their mental health? A survey of Canadian farmers released in 2016 found over half the respondents met the classifications for anxiety and one third met the classifications for depression, which is significantly higher than most Canadians.
“There’s a lot you can’t control on a farming operation and you’re usually working in an isolated environment—both can take a toll on the mental health of farmers and ranchers,” Agriculture Minister David Marit said. “This year’s Innovation Challenge is another way the Government of Saskatchewan can support its producers and agribusinesses. Mental health in the agriculture industry is incredibly important, and I’m looking forward to seeing the innovative ideas that come from this process.”
Solutions could take many forms including, but not limited to, a mobile phone app, website program, artificial intelligence interface or offline sensor linking to the internet. Selected submissions will be shortlisted, and a pitch competition will determine a winner. Winners will receive $10,000 in funding and a 16-week collaboration with government to develop their concept. The deadline for submissions is April 30.
Public information sessions will be held in Saskatoon and Regina, on March 17 and 19 respectively, as well as online on March 24. Further information on times and locations will be posted on Innovation Saskatchewan’s website.
“Innovation Challenges find inventive answers to public issues,” Beaudry-Mellor said. “We have successfully collaborated with our province’s tech sector to combat rural crime, grant permissions for hunting and fishing on private land and track the waste that ends up in our province’s landfills.”
Find previous Innovation Challenge winners and program information at https://innovationsask.ca/initiatives/innovation-challenge/previous-innovation-challenges.