Research capacity in Alberta’s potato industry will be significantly enhanced due to a $1 million investment in the University of Lethbridge by a consortium of association and industry partners.
The U of L will receive the funds over five years from the Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA), McCain Foods, ConAgra Lamb Weston and Cavendish Farms to establish a Chair in potato science.
“Growers and processors identified a need to expand research in this critical field,” says Terence Hochstein, the PGA’s executive director. “There are only a handful of researchers dedicated to the discipline throughout western Canada and we expect this new Chair will greatly enhance and complement the current capacity that exists.”
The Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA) is a non-profit potato grower organization that aims to increase the success of the potato growing industry in Alberta. To accomplish this, the PGA works on three fronts: education and extension, marketing and promotion, and research.
Alberta’s potato industry is worth over $1 billion annually, including $165 to $180 million in farm gate receipts.
The University will immediately begin its search for a scientist with demonstrated experience in the potato industry. As well, the University will be seeking a researcher who is able to collaborate with producers and industry partners.
In addition to building research capacity, Hochstein hopes that U of L graduate and undergraduate students benefit from the Chair and that future capacity is created for the industry.
“One of the consortium’s long-term aspirations is that through student-research activities and related interactions, more agriculturally-focused students will consider a career in the potato industry,” says Hochstein. “While the potato industry is big business in Alberta, family farms continue to be a significant contributor to both seed and consumption potatoes.”
U of L President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Mike Mahon, says the PGA investment recognizes the commitment the U of L is making to Alberta’s agriculture industry.
“This investment, coupled with the recent donation made by Cor Van Raay, illustrates the leadership role that the University of Lethbridge plays in agriculture,” says Mahon. “We recognize agriculture as a dominant industry in southern Alberta. We will continue to respond to the economic, social and quality of life needs of southern Albertans.”
Acting Vice-President (Research), Dr. Lesley Brown, says existing research strengths at the U of L will enhance the work performed by the new Chair.
“The work done by this new Chair will complement existing U of L agricultural research strengths like water, epigenetics and remote sensing,” says Brown. “The U of L has a history of successful interdisciplinary projects and this new expertise will not only expand capacity for potato research, but will inform many other important areas as well.”