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Lakeland College on board with Pan-Canadian Smart Farm Network

Lakeland College is in the mix for a new program to further connect farmers to the latest technology options.

The Pan-Canadian Smart Farm Network had a virtual debut on Thursday as Olds College SmartFarm, Lakeland College and GlacierFarmMedia Discovery Farm are teaming up with funding from Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network (CAAIN).

The network of smart farms is committing to supporting farmers and the industry get a better handle of available technology and its usage. CAAIN is putting up $2.9 million and the initiative will receive just over $1.1 million over three years.

Dr. Joy Agnew, Associate Vice-President of Applied Research at Olds College and Principal Investigator for the project discusses the funding mix  for the project having both government and industry support.

“The overall initiative, the 2.9 million is essentially 75% government funding and 25%  industry funding. That 75% includes that 1.1 million from CAAIN. The sites also have access to additional government funding that we are able to leverage to support these network activities.”

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Organizers are hoping this initial partnership between Alberta’s Lakeland College, Olds College and GlacierFarmMedia Discovery Farm from Langham, Saskatchewan will be the spark for similar operations to come on board in the future.

Josie Van Lent, Dean of Agriculture Technology and Applied Research at Lakeland College says they are building buy in with farmers in the Midwest region.

“We’ve been engaging producers at the needs assessment level in terms of the kinds of research we are doing. We’ve got producers whom we have been talking to. We had a great advisory committee meeting on Ag technology not that long ago, involving producers and industry, and getting their input into all that we’re doing in terms of Ag technology at Lakeland and specifically on the Smart Farm.”

The Pan-Canadian Smart Farm Network has several objectives including being a national leader in sharing information related to agricultural technology development, independent validation of Ag technologies and building a network of experts.

The first project for the network involves evaluating data collected from sensors measuring soil, climate and crop conditions in three provinces.

Blake Weiseth, Applied Research Lead at Glacier FarmMedia and Agriculture Research Chair with Saskatchewan Polytechnic is excited for the prospects of the industry partnerships.

“One of the benefits of working with such highly respected and relevant organizations like Lakeland College and Olds College is of course, they already have very strong extension programs through their activities and events like the Ag Smart event at Olds College and the Ag In Motion show at the Discovery Farm, so I think that will certainly help to engage with farmers and disseminate what we are doing through these activities.”

The long term goal will see the Smart Farm Network encompassing all geographic regions of Canadian agriculture.

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