One of Canada’s biggest telecommunications companies is making a foray into agriculture, using technologies such as artificial intelligence to help farmers and ranchers optimize efforts across the food chain.

Telus Corp. started up a division to support the agriculture industry with technology aimed at streamlining operations, improving food tracking and strengthening connections across all levels of production. The Vancouver-based company sees the use of technology in this “farm to fork” initiative, called Telus Agriculture, as key to improving efficiencies across the sector.

“We will help farmers and ranchers produce food for the world’s ever-expanding population more efficiently, safely and in a more environmentally friendly manner,” Chief Executive Officer Darren Entwistle said Thursday in a statement. “Our efforts to optimize food production will contribute to a better yield of food supply to meet the ever-growing requirements of our hungry planet.”

Telus Agriculture is focusing on the industry’s need to improve farm efficiencies and digitize all aspects of its supply chain to enhance transparency as consumers demand more information about where and how their food is grown. The company’s efforts will include linking the industry’s various data management systems together in new ways.

Acquisition Streak

The business targets customers on five continents, with the bulk in the United States, Chris Terris, Telus Agriculture’s vice-president of global strategy, said in a phone interview. The unit is already working with farmers growing crops on about 100 million acres, predominantly in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, he said.

The business was built up through seven acquisitions in the past 18 months, including the $315-million takeover of software provider AFS Technologies Inc., according to Terris. It now has about 1,250 employees in North America, Europe, Australia, Brazil and China. Terris declined to provide revenue expectations.

Telus Agriculture also sees a market for those selling food, he said. For example, a grocer who wants to sell a certain kind of produce or is looking for a product grown in a specific way could use this software to locate farmers by product and region.

The move marks the latest expansion of one of Canada’s biggest wireless carriers, which also has a health-care information technology business and an international division to provide technology services to companies worldwide.