Saskatchewan Tests New Technology to Improve Farmers’ Mental Health
Innovation Saskatchewan and the Ministry of Agriculture are partnering with a health services company to provide farmers with a new tool to track their mental health and link them with supports.
The mobile app, developed by Bridges Health in Saskatoon, was selected during a province-wide Innovation Challenge in the spring of 2020, where technology entrepreneurs offered solutions to assist Saskatchewan farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers in actively monitoring their mental health.
“Despite progress made, there is still stigma associated with asking for support when it comes to mental health,” Minister Responsible for Innovation Saskatchewan Tina Beaudry-Mellor said. “Having access to an app in the privacy of one’s own home will enhance the likelihood of people asking for help when they need it the most.”
Calls to the Saskatchewan farm stress line doubled in 2018-2019 compared to the previous year and, in 2020, COVID-19 is placing new pressures on people within the agriculture sector. The app – called ‘Avail’ – analyzes wellness data supplied by the user and offers supports including articles, videos and online tips, or more immediate help from a personal support network.
“Saskatchewan producers face unique challenges when it comes to dealing with mental health and we are committed to providing resources and strategies to help support them,” Agriculture Minister David Marit said. “We know there is a need for solutions like this and I’m looking forward to working with Bridges Health to provide a resource custom-built for the agriculture industry.”
Bridges Health is a mental health service organization based in Saskatoon. As Innovation Challenge winners, the company receives $10,000 in funding and a 16-week collaboration with government to develop the mobile app.
“As a company founded and based in Saskatchewan, the agriculture sector touches both our business and our families,” Bridges Health Vice President Leon Ferguson said. “We are honored to have this opportunity to work with government and partners to develop and advance this mental health and overall wellness tool.”
Innovation Challenges encourage Saskatchewan-based tech companies to find innovative answers to issues facing the public. Previous projects introduced tech responses to rural crime, online permissions for hunting and fishing on private land and tracking landfill waste.
Find previous Innovation Challenge winners and program information at https://innovationsask.ca/initiatives/innovation-challenge/previous-innovation-challenges.