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Lakeland College receives federal funding for ag research

Lakeland College is one of eight organizations set to advance national agriculture technology priorities thanks to new funding for the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN).

The Government of Canada’s Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development announced an investment of $49.5 million through stream four of the Strategic Innovation Fund for CAAIN, a network comprised of academic, private sector and research institutions to accelerate the automation and digitization of Canada’s agricultural sector.

Lakeland played a significant role in the development of the proposal in partnership with the other collaborators, including Alberta Innovates, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Olds College, MDA Systems Ltd., Linamar Corp., DOT Technology Corporation and TrustBIX. Michael Crowe, Lakeland’s vice president of academic and research, is excited for the college to help advance ag sciences.

“Consumers are increasingly interested in sustainable food production. With this funding, and in partnership with TrustBIX and others, Lakeland will be involved in the development, testing and rollout of a sustainability data platform. This platform will allow everyone in the ag food value chain – from producers through to retailers – to track and verify sustainable practices in crop and livestock production, which is key to expanding Canadian agricultural products into new markets,” says Crowe.

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Lakeland’s role will include testing new technologies on existing crop and livestock units at the Student-Managed Farm at the Vermilion campus. Lakeland will also work with producers and other value-chain stakeholders on technology demonstration and adoption. Crowe says that successfully advancing ag-science technologies will provide value not only to the college but the industry as a whole.

“The purpose of all of this is that if we can demonstrate to the consumer or the retailer that we’re producing our food in a sustainable way, then that opens to us additional markets that we can ship our ag product to. It’s something that we feel has great importance across Canada in the ag sector.”

Organizations, including Cargill and McDonald’s Canada, have provided letters of support for this project. There will also be applied research opportunities relating to the use of these new technologies for commercial crop and livestock production. Josie Van Lent, Lakeland’s School of Agricultural Sciences dean, is excited with the partnership that will help build educational opportunities for ag-science students.

“We are thrilled to partner with these organizations as our agricultural sciences students will benefit greatly. On our SMF, they’ll gain valuable skills and experience by implementing and using new technologies that not only increase efficiencies and advance innovations in commercial ag production, but also assure the sustainability of our food supply system,” says Van Lent. “We look forward to reporting on future student projects that are developed with this new funding and how it continues to support leadership learning opportunities at Lakeland.”

Lakeland is developing a Bachelor of Applied Science Agriculture Technology program that, pending final approvals, will be offered starting in the fall of 2020. The proposed post-diploma program would bridge the gap between management and production in agriculture and new and emerging technologies, equipment and precision agriculture.

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