OLDS — A Ukrainian Canadian who works part-time at Olds College, is dividing his time between precision farming – including robotics – and collecting and taking supplies to the Ukrainian military and civilians.
He even helps soldiers de-mine fields.
Yevgen Mykhaylichenko, 39, a precision ag technologist, runs his own independent contracting firm.
Since 2019, he’s been working on a part-time basis at Olds College, specializing in integrating smart technology into farming at Olds College.
That includes operating everything from geographic and information systems to drones and robotic farm machinery.
Mykhaylichenko graduated with degrees in mechanical engineering and finance.
At age 26, he was an area service manager for Case New Holland, responsible for 15 dealerships and more than 200 employees.
Eventually he took a job in Regina, which led to another job just outside that city where he met an agricultural dealer who he still respects to this day – Derrick Markusson, whose family-run dealership was later sold.
“He is my real friend who believed in me,” he said.
Later, Mykhaylichenko and his first wife did take up an opportunity in Australia, but came back to Canada, specifically Calgary.
Eventually he started up his consulting firm which has assisted clients remotely who are as far away as Asia.
Mykhaylichenko was recruited to join the Olds College Smart Farm staff in 2019. Initially, he wrote courses on smart farming and related matters for students. But later, he was asked to use his skill on things like robotic ag.
Every few months, Mykhaylichenko leaves for Ukraine with drones and other supplies he’s bought with the help of donations from the public.
The drones are primarily used by the military for surveillance and rescue missions. However, some aid in rescue missions when people are trapped in rubble after Russian air, artillery or drone strikes.
Mykhaylichenko also brings over things like tactical gloves, backpacks and binoculars.
“My priority is the drones for sure,” he wrote in an email.
Mykhaylichenko also cuts up Russian missiles found in areas liberated by the Ukrainian military and makes them into key chains which he sells in Canada as part of his efforts to raise money for the supplies and trips over there.
Mykhaylichenko usually spends a couple of months in Ukraine. His next trip there is scheduled to run from Oct. 7 to Dec. 6
Initially when the war broke out, Mykhaylichenko helped train the Ukrainian military on how to use drones for military purposes.
But he says troops over there learned very quickly and no longer really need that help.
“To be honest, because it was, I would say, an urgent need in the beginning of the war, probably for first six months.
“But our Ukrainian soldiers, I think they are the smartest people in the world right now. Because what are they what they are doing with the drones today?
“(Things that) nobody is doing. Like, not even close. So sometimes I even learn more from Ukrainian soldiers than they are they do from my side,” he said during an interview with the Albertan.
“So now I stopped teaching them and just bring more drones, spread those drones between different brigades, spend some time with our soldiers.”
Mykhaylichenko also helps Ukrainian troops de-mine fields, although he stresses he doesn’t have specific training in de-mining. He helps troops de-mine fields through his expertise in robotics and drones.
“Forget about Vietnam, Afghanistan. This is completely different war,” he said. “Now, everything is based on the drones, artillery.
“Those geeks, the guys who were in the school, but every time ignored (by others) like, every one of them is now their most important guys in the world on that war, because they can create such amazing things.”
Mykhaylichenko is very grateful to officials at Olds College who arrange things so that he has the time and opportunity to go to Ukraine every so often.
Now that the Ukrainian military has apparently made some gains beyond at least the first line of Russian defences in the war, Mykhaylichenko was asked if he believes they can push the Russians out of even the Crimean Peninsula, which they illegally acquired in 2014.
He thinks that’s possible, although he was quick to note the Russians will work quickly to rebuild any defences that are penetrated.
He said the key will be to completely destroy the bridge the Russians built to connect Crimea to their mainland and which is key to supplying their troops in Ukraine.
"Once we destroy that bridge, then it's easy to do,” he said. “All we need to just more support from NATO countries.”
On the agricultural side of things, Mykhaylichenko said Ukrainian farmers are way ahead of Canadian farmers when it comes to adopting precision farming technology.
For example, he said Ukrainian farmers began spraying with drones back in about 2018. He said farmers in Alberta only began widely adopting that practice this spring.
“That's why I always say if you want to learn something like about precision ag go to Ukraine,” he said.
Mykhaylichenko now has his Canadian citizenship and his second wife, Kate is now a permanent resident. (He met her back in Ukraine. She works at a hair dressing business in Airdrie where they live).
He was asked if he’ll move back to Ukraine once the war is over or whether he’ll want to stay in Canada permanently.
Mykhaylichenko said that all depends on what sort of opportunities he obtains in Canada versus elsewhere in the world, in terms of interesting work and good pay.
However, he said one thing that could bring him back would be to help rebuild, especially bringing back students and instructors to post-secondary institutions there.
That said, Mykhaylichenko enjoys his life in Canada.
He likes the climate and geography, which he says reminds him of Ukraine. He likes the friendly people he’s met, Canadians as well as Ukrainian refugees.
He joined a soccer team that’s doing very well and is impressed with the skill of the many young players from Ukraine who have joined the team.
He likes hockey but not North American football. He says he can’t understand the rules of that game.
Those who wish to donate to Mykhaylichenko’s cause can do so via this link: https://linktr.ee/dronestoukraine