There were two important developments at Alberta’s Lakeland College in January as the 108-year-old agricultural school headquartered at Vermilion announced it will offer Canada’s first degree in agriculture technology starting this fall. And in a second announcement, the college has received nearly $2 million in a grant to expand applied research in pulse crop agronomy as well as beef cattle production.
Both developments fit well with the college’s long-standing objective to help students to become well-grounded in practical aspects of applying the latest technology in crop and livestock production.
The two-year Bachelor of agriculture technology degree program starting in September consists of full-time studies at the Vermilion campus followed by practical experience off-campus, all designed to bridge the gap between emerging technologies and agricultural management and production systems.
“The first year of the program there are 10 courses that look at various aspects of crop and livestock technology,” says Josie Van Lent, dean of Agriculture Technology & Applied Research. This includes studies of precision farming essentials such as GPS and GIS, economics, advanced livestock production and management, use of robotics in crop and livestock production and all types of data collection and management.
The second year is largely one or more practicums as students work in real-world situations with placements at farms, dealerships, equipment manufacturers, and crop input service providers. All placements will have a focus on smart agriculture and/or related technologies. It’s hoped these practicums could even result in full-time job offers.
The college says it consulted with more than 40 agricultural organizations and companies to determine industry needs as it developed the degree program.
Students will complete their on-campus studies and hands-on training in Lakeland’s new agricultural technology centre, which is slated to open later this year. The 8,000-square foot building at the Vermilion campus will be an on-farm lab where students gain experience working with new technologies and analyzing new data sets.
It is expected the first year, the program will be able to handle about 40 students, with an opportunity for numbers to increase in future years. For more information or to apply, visit lakelandcollege.ca/AgTechDegree.
Expanded applied research
In the second development, Lakeland College’s applied research portfolio is growing thanks to the governments of Canada and Alberta. Lakeland is getting a $1.9-million grant to transition two critical agriculture research programs.
These programs were previously operated by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, but with recent restructuring, they are among programs being “transitioned” to colleges and universities and private industry.
The three-year grant agreement will support Lakeland College to take over pulse agronomy and beef production systems programs in Alberta. The pulse program is a mixture of extension and research projects that facilitate the growth of the agriculture and food industry and enhance rural sustainability.
The beef production systems program focuses on livestock disease and pathogens, pain-mitigation strategies and production efficiency, including beef forage and feed rations and genetics.
Van Lent says the programs fit well with the college, which has more than 3,000 acres of cropland and an extensive livestock component (beef, dairy, and sheep) already.
“And these established research programs will continue to be conducted in other parts of the province, which also helps to extend the reach of Lakeland College as well,” says Van Lent.
“This agreement supports a new model for agriculture research and increases Lakeland’s capacity to produce results of value and better serve commercial crop and beef producers,” Alice Wainwright-Stewart, Lakeland’s president and CEO says in a release. “We are excited to build on our results-oriented research partnerships with industry while also increasing opportunities for student involvement as they develop applied research skills that will serve them well in the future.”
The grant is made possible by the governments of Canada and Alberta through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) and the Strategic Research and Development Program. Another key player in this transition of provincial research programs and services is a relatively new Alberta organization known as Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR). It is an arm’s-length, non-profit corporation created to ensure research funding priorities are producer-led. Backed by some 33 provincial ag commodity groups and other organizations over the long term, RDAR will assume ongoing responsibility for funding agreements. Alberta’s government has committed $370 million in provincial funding to agriculture research over the next 10 years
More about Lakeland
Established in 1913, Lakeland College serves more than 6,400 students every year at its campuses in Vermilion and Lloydminster, and through online and off-site programs and courses. Lakeland’s agricultural sciences programming prepares graduates to make an impact in commercial agriculture and animal health. Programs are integrated with real-world learning situations and new technologies. 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 facilities, hundreds of head of livestock and 3,000-plus 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.
The college also offers programming in business, energy, environmental sciences, fire and emergency services, foundational learning, health and wellness, human services, interior design technology, trades and technology, and university transfer. For more information visit lakelandcollege.ca.