From helping researchers discover new ways of improving crop yields, to assisting farmers and bolstering opportunities for the middle class, Canadian agricultural programs play a key role in supporting the sector. Find out how previous agricultural policy frameworks have made a difference.
Business planning is key to sustained success in agriculture
From unpredictable weather to changing markets, farmers have a lot on their minds, however their top priority is getting quality products onto the plates of Canadians. This can’t be achieved without properly managing the business of farming.
To help on this front, Farm Management Canada (FMC) received funding under the AgriCompetitiveness Program to ensure that farmers were better equipped with farm business management knowledge and skills.
The AgriCompetitiveness Program combines government initiatives with funding for industry-led projects that help the sector adapt to rapidly shifting global and domestic opportunities and issues.
Along with industry partners, FMC conducted a survey which established a measurable link between business management practices and farm financial success on a national level in Canada. It demonstrated massive potential for growth in the agricultural sector related to the adoption of business management practices such as business plans, succession plans, human resources plans and most importantly, lifelong learning.
Following the survey, FMC created a series of resources and tools including a planning booklet and a website, Pledge to Plan, to help farmers create and revise their business plans and planning processes. They also relaunched their annual flagship national farm management conference in 2014 under its current name, the Agriculture Excellence Conference.
"On the ground initiatives provide a place for diverse stakeholder groups to come together and have meaningful exchanges to continue to equip the agricultural industry with the tools and information to make informed decisions and improve competitiveness and sustainable growth," said Heather Watson, Executive Director at Farm Management Canada.
Investing in farm business management practices helps the sector mitigate the negative impacts of uncertainty and helps position farmers to seize opportunities.
Projects such as this demonstrate the importance of Canadian agricultural policy framework programs and make a vital contribution to the advancement of the Canadian agriculture sector.
Ag research goes digital
Generally the happier we are at work, the more productive we are. Research undertaken by the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) and four Canadian universities, is helping to better understand the conditions necessary to optimize dairy cow comfort, which can help improve cattle productivity.
Thanks to funding under the Growing Forward 2, AgriInnovation Program, producers can access an online Animal Comfort Tool to assess how closely their farm is meeting the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle. This tool helps them target areas for improvement such as stall cleanliness and dampness. It also includes checklists, visual guides, measures and expert-level tips.
Along with the online tool, research findings on the factors that influence cow comfort and longevity were used as the basis for a series of industry-led cow comfort webinars.
Currently, more research is being done to quantify the economic benefits of good cow comfort practices. Results have shown increased milk production and the reduced risk of lameness, thereby strengthening the case for increased cow comfort.
David Wiens, Vice President of the DFC, agrees. "Animal care is essential and integral on every dairy farm. It is core to DFC's activities, linking research to practical application."
The new online tool has been well received: of the 210 dairy farms surveyed, over 90 per cent found the tool effective in assessing cow comfort and helping them decide how they would improve their operation.
The AgriInnovation Program invests in targeted research, development and adoption/commercialization activities that bring innovation to the sector and to market.
Putting waste to good use in the agriculture sector
The AgriInnovation Program invests in targeted research, development and commercialization activities that bring innovation to the sector and to market.
Liquid fertilizer derived from mushroom substrate.
Since 2013, BioLiNE has been working to develop an innovative process to extract plant nutrients from mushroom waste and turn them into nutrient rich fertilizers. The remaining fibre can be processed into nutrient rich organic fertilizers.
Mushrooms typically get their nutrients from compost - but once they have been harvested, the leftover soil-like material is discarded as waste. Thanks in part to funding under the Growing Forward 2, AgriInnovation Program, BioLiNE Corporation, a Canadian technology development company, has found a way to put this waste to good use.
"The funding we received through the agricultural policy framework helped in developing the first prototype of the technology," explains Mohammad Rahbari, Vice President of Research and Development at BioLiNE Corporation. "This allowed us to show we could derive value-added products and bio stimulants out of the spent mushroom substrate."
Soil-less growing medium produced from mushroom substrate.
The company partnered with Highline Mushrooms, Canada's largest mushroom grower, to establish a pilot plant in Bloomfield, Ontario. They were able to create two new products from mushroom waste: a liquid fertilizer that farmers can spray on crop soils to improve yield, and a soil-like product that gardeners can use at home to pot plants.
This process will have significant impacts in the mushroom industry by providing a new revenue stream for mushroom farmers while improving the sustainability of their production practices and lowering their carbon footprint.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is continuing to work with provinces and territories to develop the next agricultural policy framework.
Collaborative research leads to a break-through in environmentally-friendly coffee pods
Canadians love their coffee, and more and more they're using pods to get their morning jolt. While coffee pods are quicker and cleaner than traditional brewing methods, the added plastic has a big impact on the environment.
Researchers from the University of Guelph and Competitive Green Technologies in Leamington, Ontario have developed a way to make these coffee pods more environmentally-friendly through a compostable coffee pod.
"There is a guilt complex around traditional pods, so we wanted to create a pod that was compostable and not destined for a landfill," said Atul Bali, CEO of Competitive Green Technologies.
The project was supported through funding under the Growing Forward 2, AgriInnovation Program. This program invests in targeted research, development and adoption/commercialization activities that bring innovation to the sector and to market.
Bali said having the funding support was "very critical" in helping get the project off the ground.
During the development stage, University of Guelph researchers worked on the design of the ring that holds the soft pod containing the coffee in place, while Competitive Green Technologies developed the resin used to create the pod's ring. Both the ring and the pod are designed to be fully compostable and are made from plant-based material, meeting consumer and retailer demand for environmentally friendly alternatives.
AAFC is continuing to work with provinces and territories to develop programs and services under the next agricultural policy framework.
Dampening the effects of moisture on Canadian farm lands
Soil moisture can have a big impact on Canadian producers' crops, property and farm buildings but this moisture can be both difficult to anticipate and manage. While the Government of Canada provides a series of risk management programs to help support producers who have been impacted by extreme moisture levels, producers can still face challenges.
Credit: D.Derlago, MFGA Aquanty Project
Thanks in part to funding through the agricultural policy framework's AgriRisk Initiatives program, a number of organizations are working together to predict when these adverse moisture events will happen so preventative measures can be developed, and ultimately put in place.
One of these organizations is the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA), which is using AgriRisk Initiatives funding to develop a HydroGeoSphere modelling platform for the Assiniboine River Basin. This platform will help to model the effects of flooding, excess moisture and drought on agricultural lands. The HydroGeoSphere platform was developed by Aquanty Inc., a hydrological science consultancy specialized in advanced computer simulations.
Based on this new model, Aquanty is planning to develop a web-based tool for farmers, land managers and organizations to run various scenarios which will help them to potentially manage water levels and mitigate some of the risks associated with drought and flooding.
Risk mitigation practices could include returning impacted land to forage, grasslands and/or wetlands. The program is expected to contribute to the development of new risk management products including improved insurance products.
"The model will have tremendous value for numerous stakeholders, while providing strong insurance and risk endpoints for the project funders and other interested parties," says Duncan Morrison, Executive Director of MFGA, "Funding under the agricultural policy framework for this project was vitally important and greatly appreciated."
The Alberta Federation of Agriculture has undertaken a similar project through AgriRisk Initiatives funding, and through the two projects, producers and other stakeholders in approximately half of the Prairie Provinces will be in a better position to manage risks related to moisture levels.
Through projects such as this, programs and funding under the Canadian agricultural policy frameworks are making an important contribution to the advancement of the Canadian agriculture sector.
Soil Activity in Winter: Soil doesn't sleep under its blanket of snow
You might think that the winter months are a quiet time on farmers' fields across Canada, and on the surface you're right but down below is a different matter. Through government-funded research, scientists have discovered that biological activity in soil continues throughout winter at temperatures well below freezing.
Soil activity over the winter has an effect on the nitrogen and carbon levels available for spring growth. This new information, which could change fertilizing practices in the fall, will help farmers develop improved farm management practices that increase nutrient use efficiency and reduce nutrient losses.
Precise nutrient management helps farmers be good stewards of the land. Research funded by governments through agricultural policy frameworks continues to help farmers do their part to protect the environment and grow the economy.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is continuing to work with provinces and territories to develop the next agricultural policy framework.
AgriInnovation Helps Bring New Approaches to the Agriculture Sector
Agricultural policy frameworks include a variety of programs that help promote economic growth in the agriculture sector. One example is the
AgriInnovation Program, which provides funding to help organizations develop and commercialize new agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products and technologies.
Funding from the AgriInnovation Program has supported a variety of projects, including a recent study on year-round greenhouse vegetable production systems with supplemental lighting and examining how the quality of light can impact plant growth and nutritional value.
In Canada's short growing season, farmers often need to use greenhouses equipped with extra lighting to grow fruits and vegetables year-round and compete in national and international markets. While greenhouses create new opportunities for farmers, crops develop and grow differently under artificial conditions - and not all artificial light is equal.
Researchers from AAFC and the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers led a study which developed new greenhouse temperature and light control strategies to improve energy efficiency in year-round greenhouse vegetable production. The study looked at looked at how greenhouses equipped with LED lights can help grow better plants while ensuring energy efficiency. Using LEDs in greenhouses means that the quality of light can now be studied for how it impacts greenhouse vegetables.
Through innovative projects such as these, agricultural policy frameworks help to increase the growth and profitability of the agriculture and agri-food sector.
AAFC is currently working with provinces and territories to develop the next agricultural policy framework.