Leading experts developing new ag technologies
September 20, 2023 By Heather Cameron, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Sept. 21, 2023 – Kandice Kew, Regional Communications Advisor for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, says that the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre has increased its capacity and the utilization of new technologies in emerging disciplines including phenomics, agricultural glycomics, and nanotechnology.
Fourty-five researchers at the Lethbridge Research Development Centre are currently leading more than 200 projects.
Kew says that in phenomics, Dr. Keshav Singh is harnessing the power of remote sensing and cutting-edge `phenocart’ technology to improve crop characteristics. Dr. Wade Abbott is pioneering work in agricultural glycomics, which is the study of carbohydrates, and is providing greater insight to biological processes to enhance productivity and explore new value-added products.
Research into nanotechnology, Kew says, includes Dr. Justin Parhara’s research program. That program is working to develop revolutionary crop treatments to enable producers to combat pest species, while keeping beneficial species and reducing or eliminating the need to use pesticides with potentially detrimental impacts.
The Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, Kew says, is also expanding work in energy and irrigation with Dr. Sandra Yanni, as well as increasing capacity to further support the digital transformation of science activities such as bioinformatics and other computational analyses areas.
An example of this is the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network, a collaborative surveillance network of agricultural pests that researchers across Prairie RDCs contribute to. Users can freely view or subscribe to it, Kew says.
“Innovation is at the heart of research and science, and a key focus of the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre,” Kew said. “As a government institution, the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre works very closely with other players in the innovation ecosystem. AAFC researchers compete for funding from industry and non-government organizations, and project collaborations often include academic and industry participants. AAFC enables growth in the innovation ecosystem while building on the strengths of diverse partners and contributors to delivery results to the sector and Canadians.”
“Agricultural research both contributes to and benefits from advancements in technology and methodologies,” Kew said. “Precision agriculture offers opportunities for greater control in experimental analyses, and investigation of more refined parameters. In partnership with industry, AAFC is utilizing the tremendous data collection capacity of modern farm equipment, and continuously modernizing equipment to increase efficiency and maximize data collection potential.”
The Lethbridge RDC, Kew says, also strives to ensure AAFC science is applicable on-farm so agricultural producers can more quickly reap the benefits of the research.
The University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College both benefit locally through collaborative research projects as well as opportunities to support science through inclusion of undergraduate and graduate student positions. Annually, Kew says, the Centre hires over 100 students, many of whom are affiliated with these local academic institutions, or who call Lethbridge home during summer months. Kew says that the Centre also benefits from an expansive network of national and international collaborations that allow researchers to leverage the strengths and specializations of various methodologies within AAFC and beyond.
Kew emphasizes that the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre continues to look for opportunities for researchers to work together, across different commodities, disciplines, and expertise. This, Kew says, includes partnering with producers, industry associations, and other post-secondary institutions and more. Kew says it also includes research activities that are collaboratively developed and funded with partner organizations, such as producer groups, provincial and federal government funding groups, industry associations, regional agricultural associations, and post-secondary institutions.
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