Yevgen Mykhaylichenko is trying to bring more autonomous systems to Canadian agriculture, and he’s using knowledge acquired abroad to do it.
Finding the ‘Big V’ in grain storage
When it comes to storing grain after harvest, some farmers find greater value in on-farm storage as opposed to trucking…
Splitting his time between academia and the Ukrainian front line, the Ukrainian professor and Olds College technology integration specialist works with a wide range of digital technologies and hardware. On frequent visits to Ukraine, that means supporting the armed forces with drones – tools that have proven invaluable to the men and women fighting the Russian aggressors.
In his Alberta home, he adapts Raven’s autonomous OMNi Power platform and other technologies to the Canadian farm landscape.
Mykhaylichenko arrived in Alberta via a circuitous route, starting in the early 2000s. After completing degrees in mechanical engineering and finance from Ukrainian Dnipro State Agrarian and Economic University, he ran a small agricultural operation in the United Kingdom, and owned a construction company in Dnipro city, Ukraine.
He then started working for CNH Ukraine, eventually becoming an area service manager. He covered multiple Eastern European countries, including Ukraine, Moldova and the Baltic states. In 2015, he moved to a Case IH dealer in Regina, then a New Holland dealer, before relocating to another Case dealer in western Australia.
Another move brought him back to Western Canada, where he started working for Trimble Vantage Canada West in Calgary.
“Finally, I got to Olds College by recommendation of one of my colleagues. I was introduced as a good specialist,” says Mykhaylichenko. One of his first tasks at the college was to develop agricultural technology courses covering subjects such as GIS (geography information systems) and telematics. He began working with OMNi Power after the college purchased the platform, as well as the accompanying seeder, spreader and sprayer, in 2019.
“It was a really different implement. No one knew how to operate this robot. Then they asked if I’d like to develop robotics on the college’s Smart Farm,” he says, adding that, in Ukraine, there are approximately 20 specialists like him.
In Canada, the number of people actively working with autonomous agriculture technologies is comparatively small.
“Every time when I travel to Ukraine, I learn something from them. They are crazy. In Ukraine, we have many companies that started drone spraying, but here in Canada it just started spraying pesticides in Alberta this April.
“In Canada we are five years behind if we talk about drone spraying. Same for other technologies,” says Mykhaylichenko.
“But what I really like, there are a lot of ‘tools.’ Once you have your name here – you have to earn your own name – and pass that Rubicon or barrier, you make a good business and career here.
“You can’t learn everything from books. You have to see things in practice. It takes some time here in Canada to implement these technologies for local farmers. We can bring what we learn in Ukraine here, and also bring what we have in Canada to Ukraine. It’s an advantage to all immigrants working in precision agriculture. We can see the pluses of both countries.”
The war is never far, of course.
Mykhaylichenko owns property in the city of Bucha, Ukraine, a place now infamous for mass atrocities committed by Russian soldiers. He was lucky enough to leave Bucha on Feb. 24, 2022, the day the Russians launched the full-scale invasion.
Now with the knowledge of what later transpired –mass torture and murder of Ukrainian civilians – Mykhaylichenko believes he “would not be talking at this moment” if he had stayed longer.
Like many Ukrainians, he has found his own way of supporting the war effort. Since the Russians invaded last year, he has delivered more than 160 commercial drones to the Ukrainian army. He operates a fundraiser, Drones to Ukraine, and encourages those interested in supplying drones to the Ukrainian armed forces to donate or get in touch.
Even when abroad, though, he continues operating equipment in Olds, Alta.
“I open my laptop from Ukraine at the front line, connect to Starlink, ask the students to start the [OMNiPOWER] engine and warm up the hydraulic system. I plan and operate the robot from Ukraine while they are working in Alberta.
“I am proud of my students and team in Olds College. They support and motivate me every time when I fly to Ukraine,” he says.
“No matter where you are, all you need is high-speed internet, clever people, smart students and desire to go further with these systems.”
This article is second in a series on Ukrainians working in Canadian agriculture (you can read the first instalment, here). If you or someone you know is interested in contributing to this series, please contact Matt McIntosh at [email protected].