Preparations are underway for the next meeting of Manitoba’s Digital Agriculture Table on May 2, 2023. The meeting will take place virtually from 9:30 to 10:30 am, providing an opportunity to work collaboratively and share insights to address key skill and labour gaps faced by the digital agriculture industry.

Attendees will be among the first to hear results from the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC)’s latest report identifying skills and talent requirements for the future of digital agriculture.

ICTC’s Manager of Digital Policy Mairead Matthews, and Research and Policy Analyst Allison Clark will share a presentation on Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability: Skilled talent needed to meet food demand and reduce environmental impacts.

“We are looking forward to their insights into what it takes for Canada to become a leader in sustainable food production and what skills will be needed across our industry,” said EMILI Managing Director Jacqueline Keena. 

Digital agriculture: a way to lead innovation 

The potential of digital agriculture was top of mind earlier this year at MI-AP’s Showcase and Symposium. When attendees were asked where Manitoba could be a leader in innovation, the overwhelming response was digital agriculture.Mentimeter word cloud with Digital Agriculture large and centred.

This didn’t surprise Keena or EMILI Skills and Talent Manager Rachel LeClair. This is a sentiment they have heard before from leaders across industry, government, and post-secondary during Manitoba’s Digital Agriculture Table meetings. EMILI has co-hosted the Table alongside MI-AP for the past three years. 

“Located here in the prairies, with longstanding industry-leading companies, global experts at our post-secondaries, and an emerging tech start-up scene, we are in the right place at the right time to continue to grow digital agriculture in Manitoba,” said Keena.

Working together to connect employers and students 

Keena and LeClair were at the MI-AP symposium in February to share key outcomes and success stories from the Manitoba Digital Agriculture Table. One of these successes is increased opportunities for work-integrated learning. 

“I am really proud of the work we did around work integrated learning through the pandemic, and the amount of students we were able to get into great positions even when we were virtual,” said LeClair. “This is an area where I think a lot of emphasis should be placed as we go forward, giving students opportunities to test out their skills and their assumptions about what different working arrangements are.” 

Jacqueline Keena and Myrna Grahn at MI-AP Symposium
Jacqueline Keena and Myrna Grahn at MI-AP Symposium

For organizations interested in creating jobs for students, there is support available. EMILI recently launched a new online tool to help students and employers access resources. For example, ICTC’s WIL Digital program, which EMILI contributed to, provides wage subsidies to employers to increase opportunities for post-secondary students to take part in meaningful placements. 

Digital agriculture is growing and evolving so rapidly, and is such a diverse sector, that almost any person and skillset can find a home for their expertise,” said Keena. 

Realizing this potential requires participation across the sector.

“We are grateful to the more than 200 people who have participated over the past three years, and to the 40 industry and academic representatives who have engaged with this work to ensure that Manitoba seizes our digital agriculture opportunity, increases our capacity, and attracts more people of all ages, backgrounds, and skill sets to this key industry in Manitoba,” said LeClair.

In Fall 2022, EMILI reaffirmed its commitment to this work with Manitoba’s Digital Agriculture Strategic Roadmap which identifies three priorities

  1. identify and mitigate skills and talent gap;
  2. increase education and training to enhance career opportunities; and,
  3. foster industry and academic alignment to increase research and development partnerships.

The importance of these priorities is highlighted in a short video featuring LeClair and Keena along with Tim Hore, Dean, School of Agriculture and Environment, Assiniboine College and Michelle Finley, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Roquette Canada. 

“As new technologies continue to evolve the industry and transform ways of working, an emphasis on the changing nature of work and skills required is important,” said Keena. “This will require creative solutions to engage a diverse audience.”

Since launching in 2020, the Manitoba Digital Agriculture Table has fostered a diverse network across the industry to discuss issues, opportunities and expertise to advance digital agriculture. If you are interested in adding your voice to this conversation, email info@emilicanada.com for more information.