Canada’s Living Labs supports the development of the next generation of scientists

29 August 2023 | Muriel Cozier

Canada spearheads collaborative agricultural innovation

Canada’s government is building on the success of its Living Lab initiative, first announced during 2018 at the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting in Argentina, with a further lab being established in Prince Edward Island (PEI).

The initiative kicked off in 2019, with four Living Labs in PEI, Manitoba, Québec and Ontario. It focuses on agricultural innovation bringing together farmers, scientists and other collaborators to co-develop and test original practices and technologies to address agriculture and environmental issues. The aim is to accelerate the agricultural sector’s response to climate change. Areas of research include mitigating and adapting to climate change, protecting soil and water quality, and maximising biodiversity and developing Beneficial Management Practices (BMP) on multiple sites.

The Living Labs approach has three core principles which are: focusing on farmers needs; broad and diverse partnerships; and testing in real-life context. At the start of a programme, farmers, scientists, local collaborators and others meet to discuss the farmers’ needs and identify common priorities and objectives.

The newest Living Lab in PEI, is backed by an investment of CAN$4.5 million over five years from the Federal Government under the Agricultural Climate Solutions – Living Labs programme. Commenting Dr Greg Keefe, President and Vice-Chancellor (Interim), University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) said: ‘Funding through programmes like the Living Laboratories Initiative helps UPEI and the Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation support the development of the next generation of scientists and innovators in the agri-environmental field.’

During 2022 nine further Living Labs were established, and Canada’s government has said that it is on track to have such labs in every province. The government added that this model for agricultural innovation has received international recognition and similar initiatives are being developed in other countries. Canada is collaborating with the US, as well as the European Commission on Living Labs ideas.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and France’s L'Institut national de recherché pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement (INRAE) will be co-hosting the first International Forum on Agroecosystem Living Labs in Montreal Québec from 4 – 6 October 2023.

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