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Students at Lethbridge College now have the ability to turn a two-year agriculture diploma into a full undergraduate degree with the institution’s brand-new bachelor of agriculture science program, which began this fall.

This extension of the diploma is squarely focused on the reality of agriculture in 2021 and beyond, namely the sector’s increasingly data-driven bent. It touts an educational package designed to provide the fundamentals of plant and soil science and growing disciplines such as precision agriculture.

According to program chair Byrne Cooke, this new degree provides students countless career opportunities reflective of the ag industry’s high-tech nature. “Our goal is to show them these are the tools you can use and this is how and why they work,” he said of digital tech. “Students are going to get a background to understand that.”

The curriculum was developed in direct consultation with the Alberta Institute of Agrologists and, once graduated, students will be able to apply for a P. Ag designation.

Cook said graduates will open themselves up to a world of opportunities whether they stay at their family farm, work for a company or move into consulting. “We see the hireability of these students being the best ever,” he said.

The program is also a true undergraduate degree, not an applied degree, which means, upon completion, students will be able to move into master’s level studies at various institutions. The course work is heavy on science and is evidenced by courses such as Descriptive Statistics, Telematics and Sensors as well as Analytics and Experimental Design. In addition, students will select a capstone research project between their third and fourth years, which could take on almost any topic so long as it relates to the program. The project will serve as their undergraduate thesis and there will be plenty of opportunity to conduct field level research in the Lethbridge area, which has multiple research organizations close by.

Abigail MacDougall completed her two-year agronomy diploma at Lethbridge College this past spring but decided to continue her studies through the new degree option. The 21-year-old lives on a mixed family farm between Stavely and Champion and is keenly focused to earn a P. Ag and Certified Crop Advisor accreditations through the program and work experience. MacDougall made a deliberate choice to stay with Lethbridge College, despite looking into, and being accepted by, other post-secondaries.

“I like the College, everything is more personable, you know everyone and it is more hands-on compared to university. You’re learning things during the week and using that knowledge back at the farm on the weekend.” She added a shift back to in-person learning will be a welcome change.

MacDougall was also excited to learn more about irrigation because her farm utilizes the technology. While she is yet undecided on the subject of her undergraduate capstone project, MacDougall is keen to research crop lodging, specifically within irrigated farm systems.

Students within the College’s various agriculture diploma programs and those studying at other institutions are eligible to transfer into its degree program, provided they meet academic qualifications.

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