Man holding a drone near field.
The new Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program is seeking participants looking to transition and advance into the agri-food sector. (Photo: Stock image)

USask partners in new Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) will support the design and industry engagement of a new upskilling program.

Together with the national non-profit organization Palette Skills and Winnipeg-based non-profit Enterprise Machine Intelligence and Learning Initiative (EMILI), the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is announcing the launch of the Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program. With a co-investment from Protein Industries Canada, it is a new rapid upskilling program to help employers in the agri-food sector find skilled talent to fuel the growth of their businesses.

The program upskills highly motivated workers looking to transition and advance into the agri-food sector. Upskilled workers can expect to develop careers in technology and business, farm robotics, agriculture automation, precision agriculture and production management. The program is looking to recruit participants from Indigenous communities, newcomers to Canada, recent graduates, and experienced professionals looking to transition into the growing and exciting agri-food sector.

The accelerated eight-week program targets automation and digitization technologies in agricultural production and processing facilities. It will allow participants to specialize in identifying, managing, and implementing technologies to solve challenges and improve efficiencies across the agri-food value chain. This program provides the sector’s highest-growth firms with the diverse and well-trained talent they need to scale and expand. The program has been built in consultation with employers and industry representatives.

The program provides project-based learning in emerging technologies in agri-food such as Geographic Information Systems, Internet of Things smart farming technology, unmanned aerial vehicles, artificial intelligence, robotics, sensors, and big data. Participants learn and apply business and soft skills throughout the program, including project management, business development, teamwork and collaboration, problem-solving, and job readiness.

“We know employers need talented individuals with the right foundational skills, and who possess a strong drive and desire to build careers in the agri-food industry. These are high-potential, resilient professionals who can help build relationships to drive business and streamline processes using new technologies,” said AJ Tibando, executive director of Palette Skills.

To meet the needs of the sector, Palette Skills leverages its successful upskilling model, consulting with industry partners to determine the highly sought-after skills in the industry and develop solutions to meet these needs.

As a leader in agricultural research and education, the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at USask supports the program’s design and industry engagement. EMILI welcomes the partners’ industry engagement, as well as the integration of digital agriculture skills.

“Being responsive to the needs of industry stakeholders and employers is a traditional hallmark of the academic programming within the College of Agriculture and Bioresources,” said Dr. Trever Crowe (PhD), associate dean, research and graduate studies of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources. “This upskilling programming led by Palette Skills will help learners from diverse disciplines become aware of and proficient in agricultural automation and digital agriculture, talents agri-food companies need to scale into new global markets.”

“As Canada’s agri-food sector evolves, so does the talent and skills needed to support it,” said Protein Industries Canada CEO Bill Greuel. “Today’s employees often need to understand how data and digital tools are being incorporated into everything from on-farm agriculture to food manufacturing. By having increased access to the right skills and talent, trailblazing companies across the country can increase their workforce, expanding their production and, as a result, growing Canada’s plant-based food and ingredient ecosystem.”

The new Automation and Digital Agriculture Specialist Program is currently accepting applications for participants to begin training in June 2022. Questions about the program can be directed to Ednali Zehavi, program manager,

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