This is Agriculture: Faculty of Agriculture launches its first strategic plan

- October 28, 2014

Highlights from the Faculty of Agriculture strategic plan: the work of Wasundara Fernando, Sarah Stewart-Clark and Chris Cutler. (Riley Smith photos)
Highlights from the Faculty of Agriculture strategic plan: the work of Wasundara Fernando, Sarah Stewart-Clark and Chris Cutler. (Riley Smith photos)

What is agriculture?

It’s Wasundara Fernando, a master’s science student in Dal’s Faculty of Agriculture, who is studying apple peels and fish oil components to determine their potential as breast cancer treatments. Her supervisor, Vasantha Rupasinghe, associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Fruit Bioactives and Bioproducts, has been investigating the disease fighting power of cool climate fruits such as apples with the aim of developing natural health products to prevent and treat chronic diseases.

It’s Sarah Stewart-Clark, assistant professor of shellfish aquaculture, who is using the most innovative science to support one of Atlantic Canada’s most traditional industries: shellfishing. Dr. Stewart-Clark and her team are creating diagnostic tests to identify species of marine weeds that adversely impact our oceans and shellfish, work that benefits the shellfish industry while also helping to protect the natural beauty of our beaches and waters.

It’s Chris Cutler, associate professor of environmental science, whose team is developing ways to improve plant health, better manage insect populations and protect the environment by reducing the amount of chemicals used. In particular, Dr. Cutler and his team are closely examining the effects of pesticides on bees that pollinate crops and trying to understand how to increase populations of insects that help, not harm, agriculture.

Agriculture is at the heart of healthy, abundant and sustainable communities. This is Agriculture and this is Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture.

Inside the plan

The newest of Dalhousie’s 12 faculties, joining the university through the merger with NSAC in 2012, the Faculty of Agriculture recently launched its first strategic plan under the leadership of David Gray, its first long-term dean and principal of the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus. 

Aptly titled "This is Agriculture," the strategic plan will be used by the Faculty to encourage people to shelve their stereotypes of agriculture and to be open to a new vision.

Read more: Faculty of Agriculture Strategic Plan

“In my role as Dean of the Faculty, people often ask, ‘What is agriculture?’” says Dr. Gray. "Almost immediately my mind takes me to the range of teaching and research on this campus that is redefining our relationships with our landscapes, our oceans, our food sources and even our healthcare systems.”

Over the next five years, the Faculty of Agriculture is committed to peeling back the layers of this question and showing the breadth and scope of agricultural teaching and research happening in Truro.

Researchers at the Faculty of Agriculture are pushing the boundaries of the industry. From exploring compounds of apple peels for breast cancer treatments to one-of-a-kind blueberry harvesting technology, Dal's Faculty of Agriculture is research-intensive, attracting more than $10 million in research funding annually.

As one of its key goals under Research and Knowledge, the Faculty will be looking into other areas of research by building new and growing existing partnerships with other Faculties within Dalhousie and through its other international academic and industry connections.

Underlying its other goals, Community Engagement, Regional Leadership & Impact, Management and Governance, and Teaching and Training, is a three-fold promise. This promise, along with the plan’s mission, vision and purpose statements, will guide the next five years of activity on the Agricultural Campus. It’s focused on fostering an environment of teaching and learning excellence, creating a hub of world-leading research and innovation, and facilitating opportunities for students, staff and faculty to connect with and service local, national and global communities.

Promoting the new strategic plan during Open House on the Halifax campuses. (Bruce Bottomley photo)

Considering the past and the future

The plan sets a path for the future, but it doesn’t lose sight of the history that is embedded within the Agricultural Campus. “We’re lucky,” says Dr. Gray. “We’re very lucky to be able to work on such a stunning campus. For close to 100 years, we have built an international reputation on being a unique and friendly campus community and we plan on preserving the unique nature of studying and working here in Truro well into the future.”

The Faculty plans to widen its community along with its goals and commitments over the next five years. To be part of this new vision, follow the conversation using the hashtag, #thisisagriculture on Twitter. You can also learn more about activities and events on the Faculty’s Facebook page.

Download a copy of the plan here.


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