Niagara College research chair receives five-year renewal

Mike Duncan will continue his role as Industrial Research chair for Colleges (IRCC) in Precision Agriculture and Environmental Technologies for the next five years.

With a rising global population, there is a need to produce more food, more efficiently. What will the future farm look like? How much automation versus manpower will be present? How will farmers utilize new technology?

These are just some of the questions that Niagara College’s Mike Duncan will continue to answer for the next five years, thanks to a $1 million grant from the federal government. The announcement was made today in Ottawa by Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, as part of $37.4 million in new funding for projects at colleges, institutes and CÉGEPs across Canada to support applied research and development activities with industry partners.

The NC grant is a renewal from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), for the Industrial Research Chair for Colleges (IRCC) in Precision Agriculture & Environmental Technologies. Duncan, who has a PhD in Agricultural Physics, was awarded the first college-level Industrial Research Chair five years ago, through NSERC’s College and Community Innovation Program.

Duncan is recognized as a world leader in precision agriculture, which involves the analysis and processing of big data to give growers the tools to farm smarter. He is the principal researcher for precision agriculture work in the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre at NC.

The funding will allow Duncan and his team – comprised of computer programming and GIS students, researchers and recent graduates – to continue developing tools to support and leverage technologies for the modern Canadian farm business to prosper.

“The last five years have been assembling the data and the tools to learn as much as we can about precision ag, and, in doing so, carving out a niche in Canada,” said Duncan.

Included in this work is an expansion of NC’s Research Crop Portal and more research into wireless technology farming.

“We’re excited to have this five-year mandate from NSERC to enable Mike and his team to broaden and formalize the work begun several years ago,” said Marc Nantel, NC’s associate vice-president, Research & Innovation.

Duncan is the architect and leader of the Research Crop Portal, an interactive web-tool for farmers and consultants to access precision agriculture technologies. The data sources include farming partners, and sensor tools and prototypes developed in-house. Expanding the crop portal will allow farmers and scientists alike not only more flexibility to visualize and verify their data, but to also have the capability to set and control their own algorithms.

Currently celebrating its 50th year as a College of Applied Arts and Technology, NC is a leader in applied education and a key contributor to the economies of Niagara and Ontario. A regional college with global reach, NC offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs.

NSERC invests more than $1 billion each year in natural sciences and engineering research in Canada. Such investments deliver discoveries – valuable world-firsts in knowledge claimed by a brain trust of over 11,000 professors. Researcher-industry partnerships established by NSERC help inform R&D, solve scale-up challenges, and reduce the risks of developing high-potential technology. The federal agency also provides scholarships and hands-on training experience for more than 30,000 post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows.
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