The teams in our Centre for Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship have been moving forward with their research projects. Here’s a glimpse of some of their creative and collaborative projects, or read detailed descriptions of their work at lethbridgecollege.ca/news.
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE OF GREENHOUSE STRAWBERRY PRODUCTION
Lethbridge College’s partnership with Sunterra was front and centre in a recent Greenhouse Canada feature. Funded by Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) and the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the collaboration encompasses both strawberry and tomato trials and spans two locations: precommercial research studies at the Brooks Research facility as well as commercial validation at Sunterra’s operation in Acme. According to Megan Shapka, the college’s director for Applied Research Operations, the annual demand for strawberries in Alberta is about 14-million kilograms. Right now, most of that supply comes from Mexico and California but Sunterra is hoping to produce upwards of 200,000 kg per year with its new facilities. Sunterra is the third greenhouse in North America to implement the lift gutter system for strawberries which can accommodate 10 rows per eight-metre bay. They’ve also been testing a Japanese variety, known for its sweetness and texture, while working with researchers from the college’s Centre for Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship to optimize production. Additionally, the strawberry varieties used by Sunterra were developed for cultivation from seed. That’s a departure from traditional strawberry propagation where runners from the mother plant are collected and rooted. Shapka says this method reduces the risk of disease transfer from mother plants.
COLLEGE PARTNERSHIP GROWS IRRIGATION RESEARCH
A growing research partnership with Southern Irrigation is set to provide valuable insight that could help producers maximize their crop production. The college and Southern Irrigation are studying the opportunities created by subsurface drip fertigation (SDF), a method that applies water and fertilizer directly to the rootzones of plants through a series of pipes. The research project is ramping up, as this past summer, Lethbridge College and Southern Irrigation installed 15 acres of subsurface drip piping on 21 individually controlled zones at the college’s irrigation research farm. The project is significant to this multi-year collaboration as it has graduated to a field-scale study after starting as a small-scale research project in three custom boxes inside the college’s on-campus innovation space. Lethbridge College’s research is led by Dr. Willemijn Appels, who was recently promoted to senior research chair in Irrigation Science in the college’s Centre for Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Dr. Rezvan Karimi Dehkordi, research associate on the Irrigation Science team. This work follows up on an earlier project Dr. Dehkordi undertook on a commercial farm near Lomond, Alta., in 2019 and 2020. The first phase of the partnership is funded in part by a $105,500 grant from Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) and the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) and will study SDF on two crops. Lethbridge College’s irrigation science team is in the midst of a large-scale irrigation and fertigation trial at the Research Farm, part of an ongoing partnership with Southern Irrigation. The trial builds on earlier work that explored how using subsurface drip fertilization, a method that applies water and fertilizer directly to the rootzones of plants, affects uptake of nutrients, leading to increased crop yields.
COLLEGE, SVG VENTURES/THRIVE SUPPORT START-UP AG PROGRAMS
A new agreement signed by Lethbridge College and SVG Ventures|THRIVE (THRIVE) will bring together entrepreneurs, industry experts and researchers to support Alberta’s agriculture sector. As a result of the new memorandum of understanding, the college and SVG Ventures and its agri-food innovation and investment platform, THRIVE Canada, will work together to accelerate the development and adoption of innovative solutions to support growth in southern Alberta’s agriculture and food sectors. THRIVE is comprised of top agriculture, food and technology corporations, universities and investors. With a community of over 6,000 start-ups from more than 100 countries, the THRIVE platform invests, accelerates and creates access for entrepreneurs to scale globally to solve the biggest challenges facing the food and agriculture industries. By partnering with the college, THRIVE can connect agricultural-based entrepreneurs with the expertise in the college’s Centre for Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CARIE). Lethbridge College’s agriculture research is facilitated through the Integrated Agriculture Technology Centre, which includes the college’s Research Farm, greenhouse operations on the Lethbridge College campus and in Brooks, and research teams focused on irrigation, postharvest technology and aquaponics. THRIVE will strive to partner with the college on opportunities for connectivity with start-ups that require testing and validation or follow-up through applied research projects.