Living Lab – Quebec

Living Lab – Quebec is located in the middle of the large watershed of Lac Saint-Pierre. Its activities mainly take place in three territories, namely the Rivière du Bois-Blanc watershed, the Rivière Pot au Beurre watershed, and a region comprising of small watersheds flowing directly into Lac Saint-Pierre, called the South Shore of Lac Sainte-Pierre watershed.

Description of this image follows.
Description of above image

A map of southern Quebec showing the Lac Saint-Pierre region and the location of the three watersheds where the research of Living Lab – Quebec is taking place. These watersheds include the Rivière Pot au Beurre watershed, the Rivière duBois-Blanc watershed and the South Shore of Lac Sainte-Pierre watershed. Prepared by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Watershed boundaries by AGIR Maskinongé. Basemap courtesy of Earthstar Geographics.

Lac Saint-Pierre is a freshwater basin located in the region of the St. Lawrence Seaway between Trois-Rivières and Sorel-Tracy, which feeds several surrounding watersheds. The territory constituting its watershed measures 990,000 km2, and 14% of this immense area is located in Quebec. Despite its relatively small size, the Quebec portion of the watershed covers 11 administrative regions, 58 regional county municipalities and 654 municipalities.

The rich soil around Lac Saint-Pierre is ideal for agriculture. Corn and soybeans are the main crops grown on its shores, occupying about 5,000 hectares, and the land is also used for grazing livestock. The rate and magnitude of spring flooding appears to be increasing in the region, which could accelerate soil erosion and contaminate waterways. Living Lab – Quebec intends to adopt sustainable agricultural solutions adapted to the ecosystem of the Lac Saint-Pierre watersheds. Producers in the Lac Saint-Pierre region and AAFC worked with external collaborators to co-define priority issues to be targeted by innovation activities. The three priority issues that stood out were:

  • soil management (climate change and soil quality)
  • water quality
  • biodiversity

Research needs in livestock feeding and waste management and management of livestock effluent were also raised during these meetings.

As part of Living Lab – Quebec, research activities in Lac Saint-Pierre's watersheds will complement those carried out over its entire coastline (its shores) by the Lac Saint-Pierre Hub of Expertise, which is funded by the Government of Quebec and led by Université Laval, McGill University and the Université du Quebec à Trois-Rivières.


  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Participating producers from the three watersheds
  • Confédération de l'Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec (primary collaborator)
  • AGIR-Maskinongé Watershed Organization
  • Ducks Unlimited Canada
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Fondation de la faune du Québec
  • McGill University
  • Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec
  • Ministère de l'Environnement et de la Lutte aux Changements Climatiques du Québec
  • Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada
  • Regional Fédération de l'UPA-Centre-du-Québec
  • Regional Fédération de l'UPA-Lanaudière
  • Regional Fédération de l'UPA-Mauricie
  • Regional Fédération de l'UPA-Montérégie
  • Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
  • Université Laval
  • Waban-Aki Nation


Water management

The objective is to reduce damage associated with spring flooding and low water levels in summer and fall.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Assess the socio-economic and environmental impacts on a regional scale
  • Assess regulatory and policy needs

Cover crops

The objective is to maintain year-round plant cover to reduce erosion and maintain the physical, chemical and biological health of the soil.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Characterize the cover crop practices already in place in the three watershed regions
  • Test new cover crops and new cover crop management methods (trials at AAFC and on-farm) and their impacts on the physical, chemical and biological health of soils, yields, biodiversity of the agricultural landscape (for example, birds and insects); greenhouse gas production from agricultural soils; and the socio-economics of farms (incentives and hindrances to adoption)

Riparian buffers

The objective is to minimize bank erosion and protect the integrity of the rivers that cross the agricultural landscape.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Produce a geographical characterization of the agricultural landscape in the three watershed regions
  • Determine strategic sites in the three watershed regions to establish riparian buffers
  • Use artificial intelligence to adapt riparian buffers to environmental conditions
  • Assess possible economic uses of riparian buffers
  • Assess the impact of riparian buffers on water quality, biodiversity (for example, plants, birds and insects) and the socio-economics of farms (incentives and barriers to adoption)

Livestock feeding and waste management

The objective is to reduce the environmental impacts of animal production.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Characterize the animal production practices in use in the watershed regions (feeding and waste management)
  • Assess the environmental risks associated with existing practices
  • Assess the challenges and benefits of regional anaerobic digestion of livestock effluents

Socio-economic studies

The objective is to support and understand farmer decision-making to adopt farm management practices.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Conduct financial, economic and social studies at both individual farm and watershed scales
  • Identify costs, benefits and barriers to implementing new practices by farmers

Engagement, education and outreach

The objective is to undertake engagement, education and outreach activities to increase the adoption of new farming practices.

Lead collaborator or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada activities:

  • Communicate the environmental and economic benefits of new practices to the farming community
  • Use a variety of traditional and innovative methods to transfer knowledge, including demonstrations, workshops, videos and peer-to-peer learning opportunities
Video transcript

[Upbeat music begins.]

[A scientist is speaking to a crowd of agricultural producers who are sitting in a large tent.]

Text on screen: Laboratoire Vivant — Québec, Une fière collaboration

[A montage begins which shows agricultural producers, scientists, government officials and Minister Bibeau doing site visits on various farms.]

Georges Thériault: Actually, it's slightly upside down.

[Georges Thériault talks to the camera, as he is standing outside with crop fields and Lac Saint-Pierre in the distance behind him.]

Georges: It's not the scientific community that is proposing solutions to the agricultural community, it's the agricultural community asking us to support them in their innovation process.

Text on screen: Georges Thériault — Spécialiste agroenvironnemental principal — Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada

My name is Georges Thériault. I'm a senior agri-environmental specialist, and I'm currently wearing the hat of scientific coordinator of the Quebec Living Lab project.

[Cut to an animation of the planet which zooms into an area on the map that is labelled 'Lac Saint-Pierre, Québec'.]

The Quebec Living Laboratory project is being carried out in three watersheds bordering on Lake Saint-Pierre. There is one basin to the north and two to the south.

About 40 agricultural producers in these three basins have kindly opened the doors of their farms to allow about 30 scientific researchers to set up research protocols to meet their needs.

[A group of people sharing a conversation underneath the tent.]

About 13 different research activities are under way. And all of this is being done with the help of five main partners…

[A scientist is speaking to a crowd of agricultural producers who are sitting in a large tent and the camera slowly scans across the crowd.]

including four regional branches of the UPA and a watershed organization led by our main partner, the UPA Confederation.

[An aerial view of multiple farm fields and pastures.]

The main objective of the Living Laboratory project was to facilitate and accelerate the process of adopting practices—best practices—on the farm by agricultural producers. To do this, we set up co-development and co-creation processes that is, we invited farmers to come and tell us about their needs, problems, situations and even their good ideas. And the scientific researchers took this information and built research protocols to address the concerns of the agricultural community.

[Georges and a colleague sharing a conversation as they stand next to a wheat field and cut to a close up view of the wheat crops.]

Three agri-environmental issues were targeted by the producers, including the first and most important one—water quality.

[An aerial view of multiple farm fields and pastures.]

And so naturally, the quality of their soil also came up.

[An aerial view of a river that is surrounded by forestry, with some silos and barns facing out towards the water.]

[Cut to Minister Bibeau and multiple producers gathered in a middle of a field and talking to each other.]

And the producers asked us to what extent they could help maintain the health of biodiversity in their agro-ecosystems by protecting the waterways and putting in place riparian strips, whether herbaceous grasses, shrubs or trees.

[A view of a white building with the sign and logo of Ferme Bertco. Cut to Jacques Côté walking through a barn full of cows.]

Text on screen: Jacques Côté — Agriculteur — Baie-du-Febvre, Québec

[Jacques talking to the camera while standing outside in front of a crop field.]

Jacques Côté: I'm Jacques Côté, from Ferme Bertco and Ferme MJC in Baie-du-Febvre, which is a dairy and field crop farm that I operate together with my son Marc-Antoine. Our farm is participating in the Living Laboratory with the UPA and Agriculture Canada.

[Jacques examining a handful of hay while standing in front of the cows.]

Jacques: What's motivating and enriching is the direct contact with the researchers.

[Jacques sliding equipment attached to the ceiling of the barn towards the other side of the room with the cows laying on the ground behind him.]

The expected outcome is that we hope that, by proceeding with this applied research, we can…

[Cut to Jacques talking to the camera outside with a crop field behind him.]

as producers, have access to the research results as quickly as possible and improve our environmental footprint, so that we have less impact and also improve our profitability by the same token.

[Jacques walking by the cows as he walks through the barn.]

Our role as producers in the Living Laboratory is really, first of all, to apply the research indirectly, to apply the instructions that we're asked to follow and also to make sure that, if there are things that we think are not practically feasible, to show the researchers, and then to improve certain ways of doing things at the research level, such as better identifying plots or things like that so that everything is done correctly to get the expected outcomes.

[Cut to Minister Bibeau with producers and colleagues sitting in a wagon that is being pulled behind by a tractor as they drive through the fields.]

What emerges from the co-creation activities between researchers and producers is that the research done in the field is more dynamic because it can be applied as quickly as possible at the farm level, which provides a more direct benefit for the producer and the environment, and to ensure that it is done in the context of a farm, within the constraints of a farm.

[Paul Doyon grabbing handfuls of hay and dropping it along the ground for the cows to eat.]

[Paul talking to the camera while standing outside with a tractor directly behind him and a barn situated off in the distance.]

Text on screen: Paul Doyon — Producteur agricole et premier vice-président général — Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA)

Paul Doyon: Hello, my name is Paul Doyon, I'm an agricultural producer and the senior vice-general chairman of the Union des producteurs agricoles. I'm the one who is monitoring the Lake Saint-Pierre and Living Laboratory projects.

[Paul with his back towards the camera, is walking away while holding a shovel in his right hand as he passes by the cows in the barn.]

What makes me proud is the contribution that producers are making to the advancement of research and the collaboration of producers and researchers in this type of project.

[Georges talking to the camera while standing outside with a crop field behind him.]

Georges: It was very exciting for the scientific community in the Quebec Living Lab project to work very closely with the end users—the agricultural producers. And since we were working with the farmer, we were able, within the framework of our protocols, to make a very quick analysis. Are we on the right track? Are we going the wrong way? Or do we need to correct it quickly? But also, there was a very inspiring aspect to working with agricultural producers because we were working with intelligent, innovative, creative people. And that improved our research protocols enormously.

[Paul talking to the camera while standing outside with a tractor directly behind him and a barn situated off in the distance.]

Paul: In addition, this research and the results of this research could be used throughout the province for similar regions or for general practice.

What we also hope is that it will set an example for the future.

[Paul inside a barn while rubbing and petting a calf's neck and chin.]

Text on screen: Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada — Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

[Upbeat music ends.]

[Government of Canada wordmark.]


In Quebec, on the outskirts of Lac Saint-Pierre, farmers, scientists and partners have joined forces to find solutions to current agri-environmental issues. As part of the Quebec – Living Lab project, they have jointly developed research protocols around three priority issues: soil health, water quality and biodiversity. Watch the video to learn more about this collaboration.

Related information