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Agriculture advisory group to help create more resilient food supply

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 4:46 PDT, Thu June 16, 2022

Seventeen British Columbians with diverse backgrounds and expertise in food production will help farmers access the latest technology, create more resilient farms, and increase sustainability through their roles on the Minister's Advisory Group on Regenerative Agriculture and Agritech (RAA).

"I want to welcome the new advisory group and thank them for their shared expertise and commitment to strengthening B.C.'s food security," said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture and Food. "Together, your ideas will help bring together natural systems of production and agritechnology, and help increase the productivity and profitability of B.C.'s food system and food economy."

Michael Bomford, an instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and the department chair of KPU's faculty of science and horticulture, is a member of the group. Bomford is also KPU's food security representative on the Richmond Food and Agricultural Advisory Committee. He holds a doctorate in plant and soil science from West Virginia University, a master of pest management from Simon Fraser University and a bachelor of science (agriculture) in plant science from the University of British Columbia.

The advisory group’s co-chairs are Glen Lougheed and Michelle Koski, and the group also includes 14 other industry experts, including farmers, academics, industry associations, private-sector representatives, and special advisers. Roly Russell, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development, will also serve on the group in an ex-officio capacity.

"I am very pleased to have been asked to co-chair such an important initiative," Koski said. "The RAA will provide a forum to harness and align the incredible opportunities of regenerative agriculture and agritech to ensure B.C. farmers and B.C.'s food supply are profitable, sustainable, and resilient."

Lougheed said: "I'm a big believer in what regenerative farming can do for our environment and how agritech can help scale those practices. The work we will do together will help create a stronger, more resilient food supply."

Regenerative agriculture practices restore the soil, water, and biodiversity of the land, which helps farmland become more resilient to climate change. Agritech brings new and innovative technology into farming to support regenerative practices.

Tea Creek, an Indigenous-led, culturally safe, land-based Indigenous food sovereignty and trades training initiative works with Indigenous people to build confidence, skills, and self-esteem to revitalize economic interdependence and food production in communities.

"Regenerative agriculture was and has been practised by Indigenous people and Nations in the Americas for thousands of years," said Jacob Beaton, owner and operator of Tea Creek and an RAA advisory group member. "I'm excited to bring an Indigenous farming perspective to this important and timely group as we help shape the future of B.C. agriculture."

The advisory group had its first meeting earlier this week. The Regenerative Agriculture and Agritech Network (RAAN) is a mandate commitment for the minister of agriculture and food.

B.C. has more than 150 agritech companies, including in areas of food processing, precision agriculture, bioproducts, food safety/traceability, and soil/crop technology. B.C. has an agritech land strategy that builds on recommendations made in 2019 by the Food Security Task Force to review land-use planning policies and regulations to ensure B.C.'s agritech sector has a place to grow.

The advisory group will provide strategic advice to government on opportunities to promote innovation, technology adoption, and regenerative practices that will increase the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of B.C.'s food system.

Work from the advisory group will inform the RAAN network, a network that will help ensure farmers have the support to combine new agritech with regenerative agricultural practices to create a more secure food system. Members are appointed for a one-year term.

To learn more about B.C. agritech, visit: https://www.britishcolumbia.ca/TradeBCPortal/media/Marketing/bc-agritech-mit.pdf

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