Over $8 million invested to expand technology and education initiatives in the agri-food sector.

Manitoba is now home to its first full-scale innovation farm thanks to an injection of federal and industry funding.

Today, the Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan), and Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) announced approximately $2.5 million in funding to accelerate innovative technologies and provide people with the skills and training required for a sustainable and economically resilient digital agriculture industry.

This comes in addition to $6 million in industry investments from Farm Credit Canada, Enns Brothers Ltd, The Family of Jake Enns Ag Innovation Legacy Fund, John Deere Canada, Rutherford Farms, and Access Credit Union which adds up to over $8 million in funding.

“Continued innovation and technology adaptation is critical to advancing the productivity and competitiveness of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector. That is why our government is investing in projects that strengthen innovation ecosystems and enable Canada to meet the global demand,” said Minister Dan Vandal, Minister responsible for PrairiesCan.

Innovation Farms Powered by AgExpert

This funding enables the launch of EMILI’s latest flagship activity, Innovation Farms Powered by Ag Expert.

With the ability to place sensors and conduct testing across 5,500 acres – including 100-acres set aside to test and validate new hard and software technologies – this space is unique in Canada as an operating commercial farm and the first smart farm in Manitoba

“Innovation Farms Powered by Ag Expert is an important step in the adoption and full integration of intelligent technologies in agriculture and the evolution of Smart Farms across Canada,” said EMILI Board Chair and Enns Brothers President & CEO Ray Bouchard. “We intend to use this space to develop real world digital ag solutions that will give Canadian producers the edge in a quickly changing industry.”

EMILI is planning to develop an agriculture innovation platform to collect and share results globally, increasing opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing. This includes sharing best practices and working collaboratively with members of the Pan-Canadian Smart Farm Network as well as the Innovation Corridor in the Midwest United States.

Academic partners that have contributed to the project to date are University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, and Assiniboine Community College.

Working together to support agri-food entrepreneurs

This funding allows EMILI to provide  financial support, mentorship, and guidance to agri-food entrepreneurs. Examples include the opportunity for EMILI to:

  • working with Carbon Assets Solutions to test safe ways to use their newly patented precision measurement technology to measure and deliver high-quality soil-based carbon credits to global markets.
  • supporting TheoryMesh to create marketing tools to build awareness of how their integrated farm and food data platform creates a traceable, efficient, and intelligent supply chain from first inputs to consumer purchase.
  • helping Ukko Robotics develop a small-scale version of an autonomous barn designed to make pasture-based farming more accessible, and more.

“Empowering people and equipping them with the skills and tools to succeed in the agri-food industry has widespread benefits,” said Keena. “We are committed to supporting start-ups and connecting agri-food entrepreneurs with resources, connections, and financial support to expand digital agriculture and attract new business to Manitoba.”

Developing the innovators of the future

As producers adopt new technologies, they need a skilled workforce to access the full potential of these tools.

“We are collaborating with industry and academia to spur innovation because we know that technological advancement leads to new and expanded businesses, new well-paying jobs and the preservation of existing jobs,” said Keena.

STEM programs, career panels, and work-integrated learning opportunities will provide learners from diverse backgrounds – including youth, women, and Indigenous entrepreneurs – with education, training, and work experience to meet the changing needs on Canadian farms.

Keena is extremely grateful for the support EMILI has received to bring Innovation Farms Powered by Ag Expert to life.

“The projects we are undertaking represent a big investment in the future of digital agriculture in Canada to expand technology and education initiatives across the agri-food industry,” she said. “This will accelerate innovative technologies and provide people with the skills and training required for a sustainable and economically resilient digital agriculture industry for generations to come.”