Feds open agriculture tech competition

The federal government is offering up to $50 million in funding for agri-food automation and digital technology projects

A new funding competition aims to jump-start high-technology agri-food projects.

If you’ve got a bright idea for bringing artificial intelligence and advanced digital technology to the agri-food sector, you could find a lot of federal funding support.

Jean-Claude Poissant, parliamentary secretary for agri-food, recently announced a funding competition for national-scale initiatives in automation and digital technology applications in the agri-food sector with between $10 million and $50 million available to the winner.

He said automation and digital technologies are changing the agri-food sector and the government wants applications from networks and consortia of private sector companies, researchers and non-profit organizations that will work collaboratively to develop and deliver automation and digital technology applications.

Interested parties have until Jan. 11 to submit a declaration of intent, which will be “posted online in an effort to foster collaboration among potential applicants. Applicants will have until March 1 to submit a Full Application for funding under this competition.”

Serge Buy, CEO of the Agriculture Institute of Canada, said the funding plan is a great initiative.

“We’re really supportive and excited about it,” he said.

It also fits well with the AIC’s plans for making robotics and artificial intelligence the theme for its 2019 annual conference in November.

The agri-food sector is undergoing transformational change, he said.

“Processes themselves are changing and people will need to adapt,” Buy said. “Tools should be there to support a transition to new processes in agri-food and this call for proposals may help. We see the interactions between the superclusters and the agri-food clusters also as being essential.”

Poissant said the government hopes the funding offer will attract “proposals for the development and delivery of large-scale, disruptive approaches to automation and digital technologies with applications in the agri-food sectors.”

He set out four criteria for the proposals including:

  • The ability to solve problems through the use of data and technology such as automation and robotics;
  • Precision agriculture platforms, data and digital solutions;
  • Sensors, interconnected software and hardware, artificial intelligence, machine learning; and
  • Blockchain.

As well there should be collaboration between businesses including small and medium-size enterprises, post-secondary institutions, research institutes, and non-profit organizations from multiple sectors across Canada. Proposals should generate strong economic and social benefits, such as private sector investments in R&D, the creation of new intellectual property and innovations, and the development and implementation of new products, processes and services.

They should also bring about positive environmental impacts, such as the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, food waste, water usage and energy consumption.

Poissant said the project supports the agri-food strategy table’s aim to scale up capacity and boost productivity by investing in innovation, increasing market access, and adopting automation and digitization. “Through this exciting new competition, we’re bringing together the best of Canada’s digital technology, agriculture and agri-food sectors to create new solutions and opportunities in a fast-changing global market.”

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