Of all the variables in agriculture, from prices and pests to supplies and sun, water is perhaps the most difficult to manage. Most Alberta farmers may prefer to forget the 2021 season, which illustrated just how damaging a lack of it can be. In southern Alberta, drought can be mitigated by irrigation, and local scientists are at work to improve the practice.
The newly launchedIntegrated Agriculture Technology Centre (IATC) at Lethbridge College uses the school’s applied research expertise to advance innovative ag-tech ideas. Funded by a five-year, $1.75 million Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council grant received in April of 2020, it works with small- and medium-sized agribusinesses to take their products, processes and services to market. With this technology access centre [TAC] grant, the centre helps such entrepreneurs conduct research, test their products and boost productivity. In its first year of operation, the centre assisted 18 companies to secure more than $500,000 worth of external funding, which includes grants and cash from private investors.
If you thought being the new kid in school was a lot of pressure, try being the new research chair at a place of higher learning. With the support of industry groups, three agricultural chairs recently appointed by western educational institutions are tasked with prioritizing and planning research efforts. As they take a seat at the farm research table, they aim to contribute to the betterment of the Prairie grain industry.
Representing the future of ag entrepreneurship, the first cohort of the new Lethbridge College Agricultural Enterprise Management (AEM) program has hit the books. Graduates will earn diplomas that will set them up for careers in food and supply-chain management, agricultural economics, sales and marketing and even agricultural policy and regulation.
When it comes to gambling with nature, irrigation may be a Prairie farmer’s ace in the hole. While competition for water resources between users is increasing, innovation in irrigation technology is
providing new tools to help farmers stack the deck in their favour.