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Wednesday , 22 September 2021
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Agriculture Technology Centre provides space to innovate

Lakeland College students and researchers will explore, test and apply the latest technology in a new central hub – the Agriculture Technology Centre – to develop skills needed by industry and produce results of value for commercial agriculture producers.

The facility officially opened at the Vermilion campus Tuesday, Sept. 14, with the Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides onsite for the celebration.

“The opening of the Agriculture Technology Centre presents an exciting new chapter for Lakeland College and agriculture science students from across the country. Being able to deliver Canada’s first degree program in agriculture technology, in a state-of-the-art facility, continues to position Alberta as a world-class destination for post-secondary education,” says Minister Nicolaides.

Home to Lakeland’s new bachelor of agriculture technology program and ag tech applied research activities, the Agriculture Technology Centre is where students, faculty and researchers will collect and analyze production and sustainability data generated across the commercial-scale Student-Managed Farm – Powered by New Holland. The 743-square-metre facility features a technology hub with displays and analytical tools, combined lab and classroom space, and an area for large farm equipment demonstrations and training.

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“Without technological advancements, traditional agriculture can’t keep up with the demands of today’s world. Our new Agriculture Technology Centre provides a space that cultivates learning, exploring and understanding – a place where our students and researchers are at the forefront of the high-tech advancements in agriculture,” says Dr. Alice Wainwright-Stewart, president and CEO of Lakeland College. “We’re so grateful to have the support of our incredible donors and funding partners – their investment in this facility as well as our students and research will leave a lasting impact on our future ag leaders and the industry itself for generations to come.”

New Holland Agriculture, Canada Foundation for Innovation, Lewis Farms, MNP, and the RBC Foundation announced their support for Lakeland’s Agriculture Technology Centre this year. Their investments support programming and research initiatives, as well as technology and materials for the Agriculture Technology Centre.

“Opening this facility represents a new milestone for Lakeland as we continue our work to provide students with opportunities to learn in real-life scenarios using transformative technologies. This space will be a catalyst for learning and research that will help support our province’s economy while enhancing regional productivity and sustainability. We’re excited for the innovation to come and value the support we’ve received from all of our partners,” says Josie Van Lent, dean of agriculture technology and applied research at Lakeland.

The Agriculture Technology Centre is home to two labs, the Agriculture Technology Lab – Powered by New Holland and the Lewis Farms Data Lab. The first is a large makerspace area that supports student innovation and entrepreneurship, and the latter serves as a central collection hub for all data collected from in-field monitors, sensors, cameras, and precision technologies embedded across the campus farm. This is where livestock, field, crop and agronomic maps and data collected will be layered, interpreted, analyzed and packaged. This will make it possible for data to be transformed into useful management information including ag tech industry software programs and applications.

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The first of its kind in Canada, the bachelor of agriculture technology program is a two-year, post-credential program designed to bridge the gap between emerging technologies and agricultural management and production systems. This fall, students in the program will delve into crop and livestock farming and smart agriculture as a management system, including data collection and analysis as well as the use of interpretative tools and programs such as robotics, geospatial tools, artificial intelligence and others. They’ll also learn how to analyze and troubleshoot industry-leading hardware, software and data platforms.

Research in the Agriculture Technology Centre will focus on the development, implementation, validation and commercialization of ag technology solutions that will enhance regional productivity and sustainability. In partnership with others in Lakeland’s region, research activities will help optimize and demonstrate crop and livestock ag technologies, proving their return on investment for producers while engaging the next generation of producers, service providers and ag leaders.

Investing in agriculture and innovation

Lakeland’s capital projects plan aligns with the Government of Alberta’s goals of accessibility, affordability, quality, coordination and accountability.

The official opening of the Agriculture Technology Centre is part of the college’s Student-Managed Lab Revitalization capital project.

With the support of donors, government and funding partners, Lakeland has made significant investments in advancing its Vermilion campus infrastructure during the past five years. In 2016-17, Lakeland opened the modernized G.N. Sweet Livestock Research Facility, which features state-of-the-art technology for livestock research and development. In the following year, Lakeland officially opened the college’s 46,600 sq. ft. Dairy Learning Centre. That grand opening was followed in 2018 with the new Animal Health Clinic, as well as the completion of the Trades Centre exterior and roofing repair project in 2019. The generous support of donors enabled Lakeland to expand the campus farm with 309 acres of quality cropland in 2019. A historic gift in 2020 allows Lakeland to further expand the campus farm and establish a bison herd at the college.

Phase 1 of the Vermilion Campus Revitalization plan was also completed in 2019-20 with renovations done in Alumni Hall’s Student Services and Learning Commons Information Technology areas, as well as in the Academic Link student labs.

Lakeland is currently renovating the WHT Mead Animal Science Centre thanks to a $17.3-million investment in capital maintenance and renewal funds from the Government of Alberta. Announced in August 2020, the funds allow Lakeland to expand the facility to ensure students continue to have modern spaces for learning and innovation, as well as accommodate new programs and increasing enrolment.

The facility is expected to open in summer 2022. Enrolment in agricultural sciences has grown 100 per cent since 2010 at Lakeland College.

The Student-Managed Farm – Powered by New Holland (SMF) is Lakeland’s flagship student led opportunity. Students are in charge of managing commercial-scale crop, livestock and ag research enterprises utilizing the latest equipment and technology. With access to modern ag facilities, hundreds of head of livestock and 3,000+ acres, the real world comes to them before they graduate. Lakeland’s Research Centre is a testbed for innovations in agriculture and the applied research team is driven by one goal: advancing real-world agricultural productivity and sustainability in key commercial crop and livestock species.

For more information visit lakelandcollege.ca.

About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is from Whitbourne Newfoundland and graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner!