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Olds College and Red Deer Polytechnic Receive $1.6M from Alberta Innovates

May 19, 2022

Olds College and Red Deer Polytechnic are supporting innovation in agriculture and manufacturing together through a $1.6 million funding announcement made last week from Alberta Innovates for the Central Alberta Regional Innovation Network (CARIN).

The funding provided from Alberta Innovates — $1.6 million in Central Alberta over the next three years — funnels down to both Olds College and Red Deer Polytechnic to support ag tech and manufacturing innovation in their institutions. Both post-secondary institutions co-manage CARIN which supports ag tech and manufacturing entrepreneurs and an innovative ecosystem in Central Alberta.

Alberta Innovates is investing a total of $18.7 million over three years into Alberta which gets dispersed through eight Regional Innovation Networks (RINs) — a regionally-based program that works with local partners to support entrepreneurs throughout Alberta. The specific $1.6 million investment in Central Alberta flows through CARIN to benefit ag tech innovation at both Olds College and Red Deer Polytechnic. CARIN is also the only Regional Innovation Network managed by post-secondary institutions.

With support from its networks — such as Alberta Innovates and CARIN — Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI) provides advisory and support services to small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to identify opportunities for new digital agricultural technologies or processes, each with the potential to enhance productivity in crop and livestock production.

“Our connection to CARIN and the Regional Innovation Networks helps OCCI support businesses by guiding them to the right places, plus the Smart Farm was built to support startup development, validation, scaling and demonstration of technologies and practices,” says Dr. Joy Agnew, Associate Vice President, Applied Research at Olds College. Our support includes discovery services, hands-on testing services, business advice, and technical, performance-based information — all designed to support SMEs at every stage of the innovation cycle as they focus on improving ag technologies and practices.”

Since 2018, OCCI has engaged with 185 companies and organizations with an interest in working with the Smart Farm on ag tech applied research. Out of the 185, 148 were SMEs, 104 were engaged on a project, and 89 were Alberta-based. Seventy-one of the 185 companies and organizations are actively engaged on a project for 2022.

Dr. Tonya Wolfe, Manager of the Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing (CIM-TAC) at Red Deer Polytechnic, has seen up close how investment in the RINs supports a broad range of applied research and innovation activity. “As part of CARIN, we work closely with SMEs from ideation through to commercialization,” says Wolfe. “Having this network of support helps us to provide a new focus area for Central Alberta’s existing manufacturing base, through design for manufacturing, validation, and manufacturing optimization.”

“Through the Regional Innovation Networks, Alberta Innovates has brought together the power of a network of strong regional supports across the province to create opportunities for SMEs, entrepreneurs and innovators to be successful,” comments Laura Kilcrease, CEO, Alberta Innovates.

Olds College’s Smart Ag Ecosystem encompasses the Smart Farm, smart ag applied research, innovation and entrepreneurship, and ag tech academic programming to create a place where producers, industry partners, SMEs, students and faculty can collaborate and work towards advancing agriculture.

To learn more about the $1.6M funding announcement, read the Government of Alberta media release and Alberta Innovates media release.

“Olds College has been instrumental in the development of our product, providing early consultation and input to the design, facilitating the completion of a market validation study by Olds College business students, and providing valuable industry contacts,” says Mark Olson, President, Flokk Systems Inc.

“Olds College provides professional services and resources for companies such as Ceres to develop innovative solutions for the livestock industry — and creates an innovation environment which supports companies to further develop and validate their products and technologies,” says Alex Villeneuve, Founder, Ceres Solutions Ltd.

“Our work with Joy Agnew and her team at Olds College has been critical to the advancement of our IBD Monitor product. A complete understanding of the in-bin drying process and the comprehensive analysis of our algorithm is key to creating an optimum technology that is exportable across Canada and the globe,” comments Glenn Wilde, Co-Founder, Top Grade Ag.

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