College’s Field Day showcases agriculture innovation

·3 min read

Lethbridge College welcomed Western Canada’s agricultural community to its Field Day on Wednesday highlighting the college’s rapidly expanding Centre for Applied Research Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The experience gave industry professionals and farmers a chance to see what the Centre has been working on, from irrigation control to post-harvest storage. The event took place on the College’s 385-acre research farm just east of Lethbridge with informational sessions from the college’s Mueller Irrigation Group and advanced Post-Harvest Technology Centre. Megan Shapka, Director of Applied Research Operations at Lethbridge College, says “The main reason we would do a Field Day like this, is so we can transfer the knowledge from our research. Because of COVID, this is the first time we’ve actually had such a big group tour through our farm. Really interacting with our researchers and learning about the research that we do here. And that’s a big part of who we are and why we do what we do.” Dr. Willemijn Appels, Senior Research Chair at Lethbridge College, was on site showcasing irrigation science and hydrology research. Appels says “We do all kinds of projects here that deal with precision irrigation management. So, applying water in different rates in different amounts, the places in the field were the crop needs it at any moment in time. We do that with this new technology, as well as with new sensors to sort of figure out where we should put the water.” Many projects do subsurface drip irrigation, along with surface drips used to grow vegetables or flowers. Appels’ research into irrigation science looks beneath the surface for practical solutions and the challenges facing farmers in irrigation-dependent southern Alberta. The work done today is enhanced thanks to the college’s acquirement of the former Alberta Irrigation Technology Centre from the provincial government back in 2020, increasing the research capacity and accelerating their ability to implement new technology. Shapka says “We do applied research, which is the whole point of working with industry, and mobilizing the research so it doesn’t sit on the shelf. It’s to be used, commercialized, and applied on farms. So an event like this is really important for farmers and industry to come out and see what we do and learn from it.” Farmers, producers, and industry partners can come to the Centre with their challenges and work towards a specific goal helping them with issues. Shapka says “Some industry partners can come to us with a challenge, we’ll figure out if we have the research expertise and the capacity to help them develop a project [...] Individual producers, farmers, industry partners can just come to us and they can pay directly for research and development services as well.” The facility and research being done helps the future of the agricultural industry while also showcasing what researchers can do to aid in the agricultural industry. Shapka says “Adding the farm to our research facilities has been a game changer for our researchers, allowing them to create solutions for industry that improve water management, increase yields and improve the quality of product that gets to market.”

Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald

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