We already know that Alberta is a province actively innovating the agriculture sector in Canada.
But the province’s “innovation engine” believes there is even more potential to advance Canadian ag-tech.
Agriculture innovators funded by Alberta Innovates are harnessing digital technologies to make farmers’ jobs easier, with lower input costs and a smaller environmental footprint.
Eleven projects are underway this fall under the Agri-Food and Bioindustrial Innovation Program, ranging from seeding enhancements to preventing grain spoilage after harvest, according to a statement released by Alberta Innovates.
Alongside other funders and project partners, the regional organization has invested more than $5 million in grant funding in the first year of the program to support the work of post-secondary researchers and companies.
“Alberta’s bioproduct and agri-food industries provide tremendous value to the province and supply critical products across the globe, including food, fibre, and finished products,” stated Mark Summers, Associate VP of Agriculture and Environment for Alberta Innovates. “The projects we’re announcing today represent the forefront of innovation in these industries and will offer significant benefits to Alberta.”
Much of the innovation involves infusing new technology into old methods.
“Farmers are increasingly adopting technology for all aspects of their operation,” says Shawn Sandeman, vice president of finance and operations for OPIsystems, which received $500,000 from Alberta Innovates for its tech-forward grain management system. “A lot of that technology is focused on planning what to plant and how to maximize yield through to harvest.”
Another example is Lethbridge-born Verge Technologies. Receiving a total of $1 million, including the maximum amount of $500K from Alberta Innovates, Verge intends to develop an interactive software with a novel algorithm that synchronizes seeding and spraying paths.
The solution developed through this project requires no additional data gathering from the grower other than field boundaries and implement width, according to the company. With only these inputs, growers can assess the impact of seed, fertilizer, and fuel on the growing season and optimize the cost of input.
“The grants we have received from Alberta Innovates have helped us make deep technical progress with our product,” says Dr. Godard, COO. “We identified significant problems we can solve for grain growers in Alberta, and we also evaluated how this made-in-Alberta software solution for producers can be scaled globally.”
Edmonton-based cleantech startup TerraVerdae Bioworks also received $500K, in this case for a biopolymer technology based on “polyhydroxyalkanoates”—polymers that are bio-derived and naturally biodegradable alternatives to the pollution problems of conventional plastics. TerraVerdae is developing an advanced biodegradable coating for seeds that will enhance efficiency, maintain soil health, and reduce GHG emissions associated with crop production.
“We are applying our patented bio-based polymer for use as a seed coating after being approached by an international seed company,” explains chief executive William Bardosh. “This biodegradable coating will provide nutrients and improve germination after crop planting, and because the polymer is from a natural source it also qualifies for organic farming.”
Other funding recipients include Super GeoAI Technology, Viresco, and projects out of the Universities of Calgary and Alberta.
RJ Sigurdson, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation for Alberta, believes that this innovation funding “will help Alberta agriculture continue to be a significant driving force for our economy and allow our producers to continue to provide high-quality agricultural products.”
The Agri-Food and Bioindustrial Innovation Program remains open to new funding applications on a continuous basis to small and medium-sized enterprises, industry organizations, research and development organizations, post-secondary institutions, and government research laboratories who can demonstrate clear benefits for the province of Alberta.
Working with innovators in all sectors of the economy to drive entrepreneurship, Alberta Innovates manages 1,300 projects in a portfolio valued at $1.3 billion.