Olds College introduces new ag program

Olds College introduces new ag program
Nov 23, 2023

The Indoor Agriculture Certificate is the first of its kind in Canada

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A postsecondary school in Alberta launched a new program for ag students.

Beginning in fall of 2024, Olds College will offer a four-month Indoor Agriculture Certificate program to meet industry demands for skilled people to work in the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) sector.

The first cohort will consist of 30 students.

“Our students will acquire essential skills in plant production techniques, modern technologies, and business practices that are crucial for success in this field,” Debbie Thompson, VP of academic for Olds College, said in a statement.

Examples of CEA include greenhouses, vertical farming and hydroponics.

Students will be required to complete five individual courses to earn their certificate.

In the Principles of Crop Production in Controlled Environments course, for example, “students explore the relationship between plants, their physiology, and growing requirements within controlled environments,” the course description says. “Students will learn how to optimize plant growth and productivity while ensuring sustainable and efficient nutrient management practices.”

A field placement of at least 200 hours is optional.

The number of greenhouse vegetable operations across Canada is on the rise.

In 2019, Canada had 843 operations, harvesting more than 17 million square metres of produce, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada data from December 2022 says.

In 2021, Canada had 892 greenhouse vegetable operations. And the harvested area increased to more than 19 million square metres.

And research indicates the CEA sector will continue to grow.

Market.us, a market research report provider, anticipates the global CEA market will be worth about US$377.6 billion (CAD$517.3 billion) by 2032, up from US$74.4 billion (CAD$101.9 billion) in 2022.

“The CEA industry is anticipated to expand over the next few years as a result of rising consumer demand for locally farmed food, technological advancements, and increased worries about the sustainability and security of the food supply,” part of the report says.

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