The associate vice-president of applied research at Olds College, Joy Agnew co-leads the development of the school’s Smart Ag Ecosystem, a collection of programs and resources that includes its Smart Farm. She describes the school’s farm program as a “one-stop-shop innovation ecosystem.” While it is comprised of academic programs that provide students with practical, hands-on experience at the cutting edge of contemporary farming, the Smart Ag Ecosystem is also a vibrant research department. In recognition of her industry research and leadership of the college’s programming, Agnew was recently recognized as a Top 50 Innovator in Canadian Agriculture by Canadian Western Agribition.
From weevils to midges, beetles to spiders, professor and entomologist Boyd Mori examines the secret
life of bugs. He leads a team of researchers with the University of Alberta’s Agricultural and Ecological
Entomology Group. Focused on integrated pest management, the team analyzes the inner workings of
insect ecosystems. This burgeoning area of study focuses on the battles between pests and beneficial
insects within agriculture.
The use of nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture has increased over the years as farmers have sought to boost crop yield. This reliance can bring unintended consequences in the form of nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that contributes to ozone depletion. For decades, scientists around the world have worked to remedy this problem.
Launched by the Wheat Initiative, an international research organization, the 10+ Wheat Genome Project has unlocked the genetic code of 15 wheat varieties. Curtis Pozniak, USask professor and director of the institution’s Crop Development Centre, led the project, which was funded by numerous organizations including the Alberta Wheat Commission and carried out by scientists in several countries.
Given the rapid development of markets, emerging technologies and a huge public interest in the industry, this is a uniquely opportune time to shape the future of agriculture. Canadian youth are perhaps the best prepared to visualize the shape of things to come and to devise a head-on approach.
Canadian agriculture has faced COVID-19 issues within every industry subset. Challenges in southern Alberta’s Feedlot Alley, the province’s central hub for feeder cattle, have piled up since early 2019 and the global pandemic was just the latest hit in a whirlwind stretch.
A born communicator, Lesley Kelly put her conversational skills to work as an advocate for agriculture. Kelly maintains the High Heels and Canola Fields blog, which she supports with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds. She also co-hosts the What the Farm Podcast with influential American farmer Rob Sharkey.
The ability of legumes to self-fertilize by fixing nitrogen from the air is well-known. Developing this ability in grains, however, could radically change Canadian cereal crop production. Such an innovation has the potential to diminish input costs and decrease environmental impact, but making it happen is a complex and challenging task. Alicja Ziemienowicz, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, is working to solve this tricky biological puzzle. While her research began in 2014, and has yielded impressive results, it could be more than a decade from now until we see nitrogen-fixing grains blowing in the wind.