As the COVID-19 pandemic kept Canadians in lockdown this spring, the team behind Ag in Motion had a tough decision to make.
The popular farm show, now in its sixth year at Langham, Sask., wouldn’t be able to take place at the show site this summer due to social distancing and virus transmission concerns. In late March, Ag in Motion staff decided to explore the opportunity to host a virtual event instead.
“We worked really hard to find solutions to keep Ag in Motion going as it had been planned,” said Rob O’Connor, Ag in Motion’s director. “But as we went through the process of talking with health officials and different levels of government, we made the decision that there just won’t be an opportunity for us to come together with an event that can host 10,000 to 30,000 people.”
After finding the appropriate platform, plans were underway to launch Ag in Motion Discovery Plus. This free digital farm show will take place July 21-25, on-demand and brimming with informative, engaging content for farmers and ranchers. Approximately 240 different sessions are scheduled for attendees to access throughout the five-day event.
Using the digital support and other areas of expertise within the Glacier Farm Media network, the Ag in Motion team took up the challenge of building a new online event to provide value for the producers that look forward to the annual live show.
“We’re very excited about what it can offer for this year, especially with the fact that all the major agricultural events in Western Canada are being cancelled, and here’s still an opportunity for both farmers and for companies to interact (on) a large scale,” said O’Connor.
“I think everybody did pick up the gauntlet and ran with it. We’ve all learned new skills, and we were creating a new online product.”
However, taking this new approach hasn’t been without its ups and downs, he explained.
“A lot of people were having a difficult time grasping what this new technology looks like, and that can be hard on people who have been growing an event of close to 600 exhibitors.”
Some past exhibitors had to bow out due to scaled-down marketing efforts and financial considerations in light of the current economic reality. Some companies didn’t understand what a virtual farm show would entail. But around 150 exhibitors have signed on for the digital event, which O’Connor finds encouraging.
“Those companies…that chose to work with us demonstrated that there’s a lot of trust in the team and a lot of optimism still in agriculture,” he said. “I think that was uplifting for the sales team and the designers of the program when you start hearing those types of stories.”
Attendees can enjoy equipment demonstration videos, livestock programming, virtual tours of crop plots and presentations on a variety of topics. In order to better connect the user to exhibitors of interest to them, the online platform will use information provided by the user on their operation and practices to curate recommended programming. This will be continually updated as the user interacts with exhibitors, demonstrations and seminars.
O’Connor believes this event will fill the space of live, in-person events for now, helping to facilitate business between farmers and exhibitors at a time when it’s more difficult to connect face-to-face.
“What we’re really hoping for is that farmers can utilize this platform to still find out what’s new and exciting in the industry, whether it’s farming practices or whether it’s new technologies and equipment or crop or livestock, and still make that connection,” he said.
For example, the platform allows for chat functions, question-and-answer components to demonstrations and seminars and the opportunity to follow up with exhibitors and presenters afterwards.
“As for the companies who can’t see all the farmers out there, here’s an opportunity for them to efficiently reach out with their product, with their information, share that with the farmers and the ranchers and hopefully connect and find something there that can help the farmer or the rancher with a solution to an issue they might have.”
To register for Ag in Motion Discovery Plus, visit the event’s website.