By Dale Woodard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald
The seed has been planted at Lethbridge College.
And the growth will be immediate.
In a media gathering Thursday morning, Lethbridge College announced an agreement with the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry which will help the college build on its strengths as an applied research institution.
The $2-million agreement adds established infrastructure and experienced staff members to the college’s applied research team and resources, increasing the college’s research capacity and benefitting all Albertans in the agriculture industry.
The agreement will see management of the Alberta Irrigation Technology Centre and the Brooks Greenhouse transfer to the college as part of its Centre for Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The AITC and Brooks Greenhouse offer scientists opportunities to conduct research at a scale Alberta’s farmers can then apply to their operations.
“It was a natural fit,” said Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. “Lethbridge College does a tremendous amount of work already when it comes to irrigation research and agriculture research in general. So it was a natural partnership and I just wanted to give the college a shout out for working with agriculture and forestry officials to make sure they can adopt this new fund and to have the researchers go with it.
“You never want to lose that knowledge and the fact they’re being able to continue their work and attract private dollars as well to increase funding.
“With irrigation, the sky’s the limit with what can happen and we saw it with the $815-million irrigation announcement into irrigation to add 200,000 acres of irrigated land in the province. We as a province believe in irrigation and research helps add to that success story. It’s a really monumental and historic day for the college to be able to have this significant fund from the province coupled with the $815-million irrigation announcement last week.”
Lethbridge College president and CEO Paula Burns said Thursday’s agreement was key in regards to student capacity.
“This is a really important relationship in terms of both with the production greenhouse and the research greenhouse, things we were already into. But this just adds to our capacity hugely. It’s the same on the irrigation side. To have the irrigation lands available for our research is amazing. We can have more students involved and we can have more connections with the industry and the partners in doing research.”
Burns said Lethbridge College has had an applied research program for about 30 years.
“But predominantly we were about program education and students coming to class. So over the last probably six to seven years we’ve really integrated that in-class learning with applied research and, as a result, have attracted some top researchers to the college who have developed their research programs that are really supporting industry. They’re providing solutions for industry and also allowing our students to get involved. For sure, over the last five or six years we’ve really put our efforts into growing our applied research.”
Dreeshen said agriculture is a significant part of the recently launched Alberta Recovery Plan.
“Agriculture has always been an important part of Alberta’s GDP and Alberta’s economy, but especially when we’re having trouble with our energy sector, to be able to look at agriculture and invest in agriculture in the long term really helps the province overall. In Alberta, agriculture will lead our economic recovery.”