By Jensen, Randy on October 16, 2020.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry signed a $1.8-million agreement with the University of Lethbridge to provide a new home for three agricultural research specialists formerly associated with the provincial government’s own agricultural research wing.
Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen made the announcement at the U of L on Thursday that former AAF researchers Shelley Hoover, Michele Konschuh and Kim Stafford, who specialize in agricultural pollination, irrigation and livestock pathogens respectively, will be joining the U of L research community with the financial support of the province.
This agreement between the U of L and the Alberta government will be overseen by the Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) initiative, a newly established non-profit corporation intended to focus agricultural research in Alberta toward the specific needs and research priorities of the ag industry.
Last year the provincial government announced it would be cutting $34 million over four years from its government-funded agricultural research budget, and would be redirecting a portion of that funding toward farmer and industry-led private research grants and initiatives instead.
Thursday’s announcement is in keeping with that provincial government commitment, said Dreeshen.
“It has been an important journey to really go away from government-led research priorities in agriculture to industry-led,” he said.
“And with that comes a lot of work and consultation by industry to figure out what their priorities are.”
He went on to state these “rock star” researchers would continue to fill important niches in the producer-led research landscape in Alberta from their new home from the U of L.
“The University of Lethbridge does amazing research already,” said Dreeshen, “and this $1.8-million funding commitment by the province to transfer three important researchers in the ag space is something that is good for (the industry).”
U of L president Mike Mahon welcomed the province’s three-year commitment of $1.8 million.
“It’s a commitment on behalf of the province to help us continue to grow our research into agriculture,” he said. “From that perspective it is very exciting. It’s important research in areas we have strength already, but also in areas that will be a great addition for us.”
Mahon said he expected all three researchers would make an important contribution to the university, in the context of regional agricultural collaboration, for years to come.
“They will become part of our research community,” he said, “which we are very excited about.”
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