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Celebrating research in Agriculture during Lifting Nova Scotia

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on May 1, 2024 in News
Elder Catherine Martin opened the workshop with a beat of the drum, symbolizing the “heartbeat of Mother Earth”
Elder Catherine Martin opened the workshop with a beat of the drum, symbolizing the “heartbeat of Mother Earth”

by Anastasiia Merkureva  

The Lifting Nova Scotia workshop, the first of its kind for Dalhousie University, delivered a series of presentations, discussions, and roundtables related to the University’s research and community impact last Friday in response to the province’s new funding model for universities.

Elder Catherine Martin opened the workshop with a beat of the drum, symbolizing the “heartbeat of Mother Earth” that marks important moments in Mi’kmaq life. Dean of Law Sarah Harding spoke about how local research ripples to the national and international levels, while President Kim Brooks encouraged everyone to embrace a “day of joyous exploration.”

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dalhousie hosted 36 informative sessions, covering diverse topics from community-engaged learning to green energy. Eight of the sessions were dedicated to research roundtables, offering a rapid glimpse into the work of Dalhousie faculty across various fields: Architecture & Planning, Agriculture, Dentistry, Engineering, Arts and Social Sciences, Health, Management, Medicine, Law, and Science.

A highlight of the day for the Faculty of Agriculture was a digital agriculture presentation facilitated by Jolene MacEachern, director, faculty strategy and strategic projects.

Dr. Qamar Zaman outlined the challenges the province is currently facing, including a growing population with declining food security, the increasing impact of climate change, and labor and skill shortages. He introduced the concepts of precision agriculture and digital agriculture, presenting his vision for a comprehensive program to address these challenges.

Dr. Brendan Heung explained how provincial-scale soil surveys and machine learning can significantly improve soil quality in Nova Scotia, providing a better food security.

Dr. Yunfei Jiang examined the potential of drones in creating digital crop maps and facilitating precise product distribution to address issues of pest pressure and nutrient deficiency. While drone-based pesticide distribution is not yet legal in Canada, the anticipated research outcomes were very promising.

“I was happy that I have the opportunity to talk to many colleagues across different faculties and explore some collaboration opportunities,” she said.

Dr. Travis Esau explored the topic of precision agriculture and highlighted the differences from traditional agriculture using the blueberry fields as an example.

Finally, Craig MacEachern presented three patent applications: add-on real-time spot application mechanism of insecticide, rapid nutrient sensing based on spectroscopy and potato-yield quality detection and tracking system based on wireless networking.

“For us at the Faculty of Agriculture, we are keenly aware of the importance of our work and how we have a direct impact on the food security of Nova Scotians,” – shared Jolene MacEachern, Director Strategic Projects at the Faculty of Agriculture. “I believe the digital agriculture session was a great showcase of how this work supports Nova Scotia’s food system by ensuring environmental, economic and social sustainability of our farms.”

Throughout the day Drs. Sonil Nanda, Chijoke Emenike, Phoebe Stephens, Suresh Neethirajan, Xiaohong Sun and Yunfei Jiang presented their work at research roundtables.

Researchers were happy to showcase their work and exchange ideas with others.

“This was a great opportunity to share our research and insights on how advanced precision and digital agriculture technologies can revolutionize Nova Scotian agriculture and contribute to our province’s food security,” said Dr. Zaman.

The workshop sparked a lively discussion in the atrium after all six subsequent sessions were over.

“The Lifting Nova Scotia workshop was a transformative experience in which we shared and built knowledge to support all the people we care about – our students, our community, our industry stakeholders, and ourselves,” said Margaret Savard, administrator at Dalhousie.

“This event captured a diversity of concepts within one commonality – our focus on striving for the betterment of our whole community.  The full day program was inspiring, well-organized, and created in a way that all voices could be heard and celebrated.”