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From the soccer field to the blueberry field

Posted by stephanie rogers on April 15, 2020 in News, Research
Craig MacEachern at work in the field (left) and on the (soccer) field. (Provided photos)
Craig MacEachern at work in the field (left) and on the (soccer) field. (Provided photos)

Whether he is on the soccer field chasing a ball or the blueberry field chasing weeds, Craig MacEachern is all-in all the time.

An All-Academic Athlete, a CCAA Academic All-Canadian and the Bob Coe Award recipient for excellence in academics, athletics, sportsmanship and leadership, Craig has been a key player for the Dal AC Rams men’s soccer team over his five-year career. He was team captain for four of those years, becoming assistant coach in 2016 and is currently head coach of the Men’s team. Add to that over 300 volunteer hours with the Colchester County Riders Community Soccer Club and you get a just a glimpse of Craig MacEachern.  

“Throughout my five years of playing varsity soccer at Dal AC, it taught me discipline, responsibility, accountability and the importance of teamwork,” explained Craig.  “As I've transitioned from player to head coach, I've learned the importance of positive communication and recognize the benefits in taking time to build people up, while pushing them to be their best. Dal AC soccer has been an integral part of my development and I am looking forward to leading our team in future seasons.”

Inauspicious beginnings

A native of Truro, Craig didn’t have any concrete plans following high school and enrolled at the Faculty of Agriculture because he found the idea of studying while living at home appealing.

“There is no great story when it comes to my choosing the AC, but the part that is perhaps more interesting is why I've stayed here for so long,” he explained.  “From my first semester on campus I fell in love with the small, friendly community where faculty and staff seem to all know your name and are concerned with how you are doing. To me, this is what makes the AC so incredible: you can get a world-class education while feeling like you are part of a family.”

Craig completed a Bachelor of Technology in Applied Science with distinction in 2015, winning the University Medal in Applied Science and a Graduate Research Training Initiative Scholarship.

“I have always been someone who enjoys a hands-on challenge and the connections I've made to those on campus led to an offer to do my master’s degree, numerous employment and volunteer opportunities and ultimately to undertaking my PhD. No one does it alone and the person I am and the decisions I've made are certainly a product of my experience at Dal AC.”

Berry, berry good

Craig’s research, under the supervision of Travis Esau, focuses on weed management in wild blueberry fields through precision application of granular herbicides. “I am looking at using cameras to detect certain weeds within wild blueberry fields and apply herbicide granules, in real time, only where the weeds are.”

Craig concentrates on fescue grasses which are the pest of greatest concern in the wild blueberry industry.

“Craig holds a wide range of talents and has a keen eye for high level academic research work,” says Dr. Esau. “I have known Craig to be an extremely intelligent, dedicated and hardworking person. His PhD thesis titled “Modification and evaluation of a precision fertilizer applicator for real-time spot application of granular herbicide” has potential to save farmers significant input costs and reduce environmental pollution.”

Currently, growers are using uniform applications of herbicides at a cost up to $650 per acre. A successful spot applicator would represent a significant cost reduction for growers and offer an alternative to conventional solutions to which, fescue grasses are becoming more and more resistant. As well, the reduction in wasted agrochemicals remains one of the greatest environmental challenges facing modern agriculture.   

“I am someone who believes if you work hard and take on many challenges, people will take notice and opportunities will come your way,” says Craig.

Moving on to further success

And notice they did!

Craig is the recipient of a $30,000 Killam-D Scholarship, the President’s Award, a Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia Graduate scholarship and the Atlantic Farm Mechanization Show Graduate scholarship – all of which will enable Craig to continue is PhD journey with Dalhousie University.  

 “Our Faculty is thrilled with Craig’s success,” said Chris Cutler, associate dean of research in the Faculty of Agriculture. “The Killam Scholarship is quite prestigious and competitive. That Craig received this award really speaks to his scholarly promise and the impact of the work he and Dr. Esau are doing. To also receive the President’s Award is a big feather in Craig’s hat — tremendous!”

While Craig is just beginning his PhD program he hopes to remain in sustainable agriculture and the environment.  “I feel these are the key issues of our generation and I have the potential and ability to make impactful contributions.”