Andrea McKenna and the East Prince Agri-Environment Association Inc. are bringing changes to farming on P.E.I.
"We've set up an environment where researchers and producers can sit and the table together," said McKenna, describing the work she and the group have done to date.
McKenna is the manager of the East Prince Agri-Environment Association Inc.
The association, now made up of 14 farmers, was formed four years ago in hopes of getting researchers and farmers to work closely together to get increased knowledge of best management practices and build relationships.
Partners in Atlantic Living Labs project:
– Potato producers of East Prince Agri-Environment Association Inc.
– P.E.I. Potato Board
– Kensington North Watershed Association
– Souris and Area Branch of the Federation of Wildlife
– Prince Edward Island Watersheds Association
– Dalhousie University's Faculty of Agriculture
– University of New Brunswick
– University of Prince Edward Island
– St. Francis Xavier University
– Genesis Crop Systems Inc.
– Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Researchers
– P.E.I. Department of Environment, Water and Climate Change
– P.E.I. Department of Agriculture and Land
– Ducks Unlimited Canada
A major factor in that has been bringing the researchers to the local fields – exhibiting the varying conditions the Island fields could be subject to.
"We've taken it away from the Harrington Research sites and the farmers here have welcomed them into their fields that are under very different circumstances."
On Thursday, the association received $2.4 million from Canadian taxpayers through Ottawa's Living Laboratories Initiative.
"It's a modern way of doing agricultural research, where the farmers are more closely involved.
"They help the researchers determine what the issues are, help identify them and how they will be addressed," explained Scott Anderson, the Agriculture Canada Co-ordinator for the Atlantic Living Labs project on P.E.I.
Typically, he said, farming research is done at a base where researchers take information from their findings and then pass it along to Canadian farmers.
"But what [working with each other] allows are the new findings from research to be implemented as they happen because it's not linear."
Anderson grew up on a potato farm in Morrell, P.E.I.
He said it's great to see this new way to go about agriculture. He added the Island project is referred to the Atlantic project because it's the only one of it's kind in the region. There is another project launched in Manitoba.
McKenna said the main point of the Atlantic Living Lab project is to gain more knowledge and information to make better farm management decisions.
Right now, the project involves mainly potato farmers, she said because of the industry's presence in the East Prince area, but they are also looking at studying grain production and working with dairy farms.
The project will last four years and will develop eight best management practices (BMPs) along with five supporting activities to address critical agri-environmental issues identified by farmers and project partners.
The BMPS will focus on nutrient loss due to soil erosion and its impact on receiving waters, fertilizer applications for better nutrient management, declining soil organic matter, and nutrient losses due to improper water management techniques.
"We want to keep soils where they're supposed to be (and) keep waterways clean and protect all habitats among the farmland," said McKenna.
Ottawa funds new Living Labs project to innovate agriculture industry
BEDEQUE – Ottawa has announced $10 million for a Living Laboratories initiative.
The investment, said Member of Parliament for Malpeque Wayne Easter at an announcement here on Thursday, will help scientists and farmers work side-by-side on the Island.
"Farming used to be seen as grandma and grandpa with their pitchforks, but no matter what, farming has always been at the cutting edge of technology. Whether it be through egg grading practices, (or) new technology for herd management for dairy farms," said Easter.
The Living Labs initiative aims to bring farmers, agriculture scientists and researchers and other stakeholders together to develop new practices addressing important environmental issues.
Of that $10 million, $2.4 million will go to the East Prince Agri-Environment Association Inc.
"The research conducted under Living Lab-Atlantic will help P.E.I. farmers enhance soil health, improve water quality and boost their crop production.
"Knowing how to optimize fertilization to maintain healthy soils, waterways and increase productivity given the region's unique climate are questions Island farmers are asking," he said.
Through living labs, stakeholders will experiment with applying fertilizers at various rates depending on the type of soil and environmental conditions.
Easter said the funding by the federal government will invest $70 million over the next five years to further support agricultural discovery science and innovation, with a focus on soil and water conservation.
"This includes the hiring of approximately 75 scientists and other science professionals across the country."