Barley breeding, course development, and SmartFarms — a LIVE! Q&A with Stuart Cullum

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Post-secondary institutions must evolve to serve the needs of an ever-changing job market. For a diverse industry like agriculture, courses, research, and experience must change too.

To discuss the SmartFarm concept and plant breeding funding advancements, we go to Stuart Cullum, president of Olds College, for this LIVE! Q&A.

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  • What makes Olds College different?
  • Starting to roll on the SmartFarm! What’s a SmartFarm?
  • Olds has always had a diversified farm, really there for applied research and learning, but also schools should mirror current production and also a push for the future
  • Transitioning a school farm, to a farm of the future. Established in 2018
  • It has meant partnering with companies and organizations
  • Now: 2500 acres
  • How do you plan for the next 5, 10, 20 years?
  • Competencies, real-world learning
  • Existing Field Crop Development Centre at Lacombe, Alta. is in transition. Olds College is getting into plant breeding! What’s going on?
  • Barley breeding and also some triticale. Olds College will now lead those programs.
  • Intention is to engage industry, as well, and other university programs
  • Where do the dollar comes form? Funding model for Olds’ directed crop breeding?
  • Province has committed to 3-year funding, RDAR will continue funding after those three years, and of course, working with other funding partners (the commissions, for example)
  • Cut backs at the provincial level for staff — breeders, technician, researchers, who moves, who doesn’t?
  • Moving towards an agreement on that right now
  • More than just crops! Farm business management, and more.
  • What does research look like five years out? Engaging with other SmartFarms and schools
  • Olds College projects are looking at commercial-scale and commercial-level research, learning, and experience. Validate and demonstrate technology.
  • Sunrise and sunsets: what courses have been dropped? Exploring and adjusting course offerings, some courses are on hold for now, while being evaluated.
  • Enrolment and retention, graduation rates, job rates are all important
  • The “college experience” during COVID-19. How is that going?
  • It’s been a challenge, for sure. Doing OK, though. Doing our best to deliver content online, says Cullum, and adapting as well as they can
  • Is the trend to more institution-based research vs. provincial?

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