Lethbridge College has a mission for those interested in agriculture, innovation and entrepreneurship. The Agriculture Entrepreneur in Residence (AgENT) program will launch in September by pairing students with local industry partners to solve real-world problems that affect the agriculture industry.
All Lethbridge College students are eligible to join the extracurricular AgENT program. At the beginning of the academic year, they will be presented with a challenge and will then receive industry mentorship as they brainstorm, design and test solutions. Students will have the opportunity to take part in a speaker series, workshops and more. And at the end of the year, they will pitch their solutions to industry with the chance to win awards and see their ideas put into action.
“Our AgENT participants will focus on idea generation and outside-the-box thinking,” says Megan Shapka, AgENT program coordinator. “We’re providing opportunities to develop foundational skills and inspire entrepreneurial spirit.”
The students’ mission will provide them with practical experience while expanding their network by connecting them with key industry partners. The experience they gain by working through an issue that currently faces the agriculture industry will help set them apart from other job seekers once they graduate and begin their chosen careers.
“We’re hopeful that even though it’s agriculture-focused, the skills gained will be attractive to all students at Lethbridge College,” says Dr. Kenny Corscadden, Associate Vice President Research and Dean of the Centre for Technology, Environment and Design. “Students from different backgrounds and programs bring different strengths and as a whole they’ll create a team that will be much stronger than just having students from one discipline.”
The program ties into Lethbridge College’s role as a collaborative member of the Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta (RINSA).
“AgENT is just one component of Lethbridge’s well established innovation ecosystem, which is intended to provide a pragmatic approach that will complement existing regional activities and ultimately feed into the innovation pipeline,” says Corscadden.
To launch the program, the college is working to connect with industry partners who are interested in putting students to the test. An initial group of members from diverse sectors of the local agriculture industry met at the college in late June to brainstorm challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Many of the ideas generated will become the challenges that students work on throughout the AgENT program. The goal is to have students addressing real-life challenges, not just hypotheticals, that will help improve the agriculture industry in southern Alberta.
The AgENT program is made possible thanks to a $5-million gift in 2014 to Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge from Cor Van Raay, a leading Canadian cattle producer. The program meets his mandate to spur innovation in the local agriculture industry.
“I thought there was a real need – not just for farmers but for people who work on the business side,” says Van Raay. “There is a shortage of people who have a real passion for agriculture and who want to go that route. We need to raise more kids thinking agriculture is something good.”
Interested students will be able to join the AgENT program in September, but more information is available on the Lethbridge College website. Agriculture industry partners interested in being involved in the program are encouraged to reach out to AgENT program coordinator Megan Shapka at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-320-3203 ext. 5535.
-Dr. Kenny Corscadden, Associate Vice President Research and Dean of the Centre for Technology, Environment and Design
-Megan Shapka, AgENT program coordinator