The Agriculture sector is an important part of the economy, contributing to the region's overall economic growth and providing employment opportunities. The sector produces a variety of crops, including grains, oilseeds, and vegetables. These crops are not only important for domestic consumption but also for export to other countries. Olds, Alberta is located in the heart of Canada's agricultural belt and advantageously located along the agriculture corridor.
Olds College Smart Farm: a cutting-edge learning environment that has grown to include 3,600 acres of farmland, infrastructure, and staff who are experienced in ag tech research and development. Olds College Centre of Innovation (OCCI) and Smart Farm are accelerating the development and adoption of technologies and practices that result in improved productivity, profitability, and sustainability of the agriculture and agri-food industry through industry-driven applied research.
The Olds College Smart Farm is essentially a giant lab that provides the agriculture sector a venue for commercial-scale applied research. It is attracting investment and engagement from companies ranging from multi-national ag and tech companies to SMEs (small and medium enterprises). It also provides our students with a learning environment centered on the future of ag and technology, setting the learning experience apart from other programming in the country.
The philosophy and principles guiding the development and operation of the Olds College Smart Farm are centered around engaging producers and industry in addressing real-world problems by utilizing and integrating technology and data. The Smart Farm is also focused on teaching students how to integrate, manage and leverage ag technology to enhance and sustain agri-food production.
The agriculture market is driven by both domestic and international demand. Some of the major buyers of agricultural products include food processors, retail grocery stores, and food service providers. One notable trend in the agriculture sector is the increasing demand for organic and non-GMO products. According To A Report By The Canada Organic Trade Association, The Canadian Organic Food Market Grew By 8.4% In 2020, Reaching A Total Of CAD 7.6 Billion In Sales.
The agriculture supply chain in the region includes a mix of small, family-owned farms and larger commercial operations. The region has several grain elevators and processing facilities that help move agriculture products from farms to end consumers. In addition, the region has a strong distribution network, including road and rail transportation. Olds alone supplies over 900 workers in trades, transport and equipment operators, and related occupations.
There are several investment opportunities in the region’s agriculture sector. For example, investors can provide financing for new farms or capital for existing farms to expand operations. Additionally, investment in technology and innovation can help improve the efficiency and sustainability of agriculture production. One such example is the use of precision agriculture technologies, which can help farmers optimize the use of inputs like fertilizer and water, leading to higher yields and reduced environmental impact.
The agriculture sector is subject to a variety of regulations including environmental regulations, trade agreements, labour laws, etc. For example, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for ensuring that agriculture products meet domestic and International Food Safety Standards. In addition, trade agreements like the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) help facilitate the export of agricultural products to other countries.
Infrastructure systems are robust with transportation networks, water supply, wastewater management, and energy supply. The region has a strong transportation network that includes major highways, rail lines, and inter-model facilities to move agricultural products to processing and distribution centers.
Olds College of Agriculture and Technology is recognized as one of Canada's top 10 research colleges and a key competitive advantage for the agriculture industry.
The College has over 95 applied research projects to date. They are focused on autonomous agriculture equipment, data sensors, regenerative agriculture, and technology development and validation.
Agriculture, horticulture, land and environment management, animal science, food production, business, trades, and apprenticeships.
The College works with businesses to assess training needs and source options for available programming. Short courses, distance learning, evening classes, and online programs are offered to meet business needs.