Provincial grants help NC build innovative partnerships with industry

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The NC Teaching Winery head winemaker and vineyard coordinator Gavin Robertson (r), joins Mike Duncan (l), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) industrial research chair in Precision Agriculture and Environmental Technologies at NC, to demonstrate a drone as part of developments to help mitigate the effects of oncoming weather threats.

Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division is a leader in the technology and agri-food sector, and that expertise has helped secure grants totalling $890,000, that will fund innovative projects in precision agriculture and partnerships with small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

On February 6, Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, announced funding projects from across Ontario that received funding through the Colleges Applied Research & Development Fund (CARDF), including at Niagara College. The fund connects businesses with colleges to tackle R&D challenges and launch innovative new products and services

“Our province needs talent to continue to sustain its growing innovation eco-system. Investing in applied research and development is a step towards a brighter and more prosperous future for our province,” said Moridi. “By bringing together colleges and the R&D sector, we’re creating opportunities for our students and ensuring they are ready for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Re-inventing the farm through precision agriculture

Dr. Mike Duncan, NC Researcher and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Precision Agriculture & Environmental Technologies, is a world-leader in variable-rate technology, a study of farm field’s topography and crop yields, and atmospheric variability, all major factors in determining farm profitability.

“The reinvention of the farm means developing smarter technology to rise to the challenge of fewer farmers managing more land for a growing global population,” said Duncan. “Automation and wireless sensory technology provides a profitable way to use collected data, and it will also support environmental stewardship by reducing fertilizer runoff.”

Under the program, a grant of $700,000 will allow Duncan and his team at Niagara College to advance current projects in agriculture technologies, in addition to seeking out other potential partners in the agri-food sectors, such as crop and commodity organizations, farmers, technology and food processing companies.

The grant will also allow NC students to translate the skills they’ve learned in the classroom into real-world partnerships with industry.

“This provincial grant will help more than 200 students obtain skills enhanced by real-world experiences, by participating with project leads, collaborators and partners, to create solutions to industry challenges,” said NC Associate Vice President of Research and Innovation, Dr. Marc Nantel. “Team members will learn about agricultural data, scaling solutions, prototype development, full-scale problem solving and more.”

Partnering to help students and businesses succeed

Niagara College also received a $190,000 grant from the OCE to allow SMEs a way to advance their products, improve their performance or take an innovative leap forward, through the College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program.

Under the program, Niagara College will provide vouchers to 23 companies to help solve their innovation challenges related to technology adoption, in the sectors of food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, and agriculture and environmental technologies. Businesses will work with expert faculty, students and researchers from Niagara College’s three Innovation Centres, to acquire new prototypes, products, processes, and test results that validate their products and services, all bringing them close to market.

Businesses interested in accessing these partnership opportunities with the Research & Innovation team can contact Elizabeth Best at ebest@niagaracollege.ca or 905-641-2252 Ext. 4287.

More information on the recently announced funding can be found in the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science’s media release.

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