Chamber promoting farm sector

Sometimes lost in the shadow of Alberta’s drilling rigs and pumpjacks are the province’s crops and livestock.

Sometimes lost in the shadow of Alberta’s drilling rigs and pumpjacks are the province’s crops and livestock.

The Red Deer Chamber of Commerce wants to change this.

It’s agriculture and environmental policy committee is planning to showcase some of the technology and innovation in the agricultural sector at a Feb. 18 event in Red Deer.

Among the presenters will be Rob Saik, president and CEO of the Agri-Trend Group of Companies. He’ll discuss how agriculture is likely to be shaped by technology — from robotics to artificial intelligence.

Also speaking will be Chris Thrall, president and CEO of BioRefinex Canada Inc. Thrall will describe his company’s plans to use thermal hydrolysis to convert organic waste and animal byproducts into renewable energy and organic fertilizer — technology that it plans to demonstrate at a proposed $37-million plant in Lacombe.

Trevor Nickel, general manager of Himark BioGas Inc., will talk about the Growing Power Hairy Hill project north of Vegreville.

There, raw biomass products like municipal solid waste are processed into fuel, power and fertilizer.

And sharing his insights into aquaponics, and the benefits that come from integrating fish and plant production into the one operation, will be Nick Savadov, a research scientist in the bio-industrial opportunities branch of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

Finally, author Cami Ryan will discuss how “mythological rhetoric” about issues like genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can undermine the pursuit of objectives like food security and innovation.

Richard Bradford, chair of the Chamber’s agriculture and environmental policy committee, said agriculture and agri-business will become increasingly important as the world’s population grows and its reliance on Canada as a source of food increases.

“When we look at what it’s going to take to feed the world down the road, it means we’ve got to learn how to manage our resources effectively and preserve them,” said Bradford, adding that technology and innovation are keys to meeting these challenges.

He said the Chamber’s agriculture and environmental policy committee’s mandate includes policy development and education. The Feb. 18 event will help it fulfil its obligations with respect to the latter.

“The other thing that we’re trying to do is send a clear message to the agricultural community — farmers and processors and agri-business —­ that the Chamber is really there to support their business interest.”

Bradford praised the Chamber’s board and its executive director Tim Creedon for supporting this initiative. He said to his knowledge, no other chamber in Canada has sought to become a common voice for agriculture.

The Chamber’s agriculture and environmental policy committee includes the likes of Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen, Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency president and CEO Gordon Cove, Alberta Beef Producers chair Doug Sawyer, and former Alberta Milk chairman and Canadian Dairy Commission commissioner Hennie Bos.

“I feel absolutely blessed to be working with people of this calibre,” said Bradford.

Entitled Technology & Innovation — Key to Competitive Advantage in Agri-Business, the Chamber event will take place at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel, with registration at 12:30 p.m. and presentations starting at 1 and continuing until 5 p.m. Cost to attend is $35 for Chamber members and $45 for non-members.

For more information or to register, go to the Chamber website at www.reddeerchamber.com or contact Shelley Hanlan at the Chamber office at 403-347-4491.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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