The Canadian government has launched a plan called Agricultural Climate Solutions, dedicated to help farming tackle climate change issues.
The program aims to do so through a variety of means, including $185 million in grants and a living labs model.
The living labs model brings together scientists, farmers and others in the ag industry to create and test new practices and technology specific to the local area.
According to the federal government website, the main goal of the living labs is to “accelerate the development and adoption of sustainable practices and technologies by Canadian farmers.”
Farming Smarter, based out of Lethbridge, has applied to be one of the places that receives funding for a living lab. Ken Coles, the executive director of the organization, said the program would be a good fit.
“I really like the design of the living labs approach,” he said.
“I think when you have producers and people on the ground engaged with research before it even starts, they’re sort of sold on it.”
Coles said Lethbridge would be a good fit for this type of program because of challenges surrounding irrigation.
“Soil erosion under irrigation is a huge issue. We’ve already been approached by a number of municipal governments that are really wanting to do some more efforts on that,” he said.
Francois Chretien, associate director in Agriculture Canada’s Living Lab division, said the living labs model is the best way to combat climate change issues in agriculture because it directly involves producers.
“The connection of all those local organizations with the ground, with the producer and that trust relationship that they have built over many, many years is really key to get to this desired outcome.”
According to Chretien, the living labs model is supported worldwide.
“This new innovation model was presented to the G20 meeting of the agricultural scientists and was supported by the G20. And Canada was leading the process.”
The ACS program isn’t the first to incorporate living labs across the country. Manitoba received one through the federal government in 2019.
John Fitzmaurice, Agriculture Canada leader for the eastern prairies Living Lab, said Manitoba’s is the first of many.
“Manitoba was just one of the ones that was willing and able to get going first,” he said.
The Manitoba lab focuses on a variety of issues, but watersheds and water quality are primary topics.
The application process for the ACS closed on June 15. Chretien said accepted applicants will then will be asked to develop a full proposal outlining the next five years.