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UNB’s McKenna Institute announces investment in digital agriculture led by McCain Foods

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Jun 11, 2024

Category: Press Releases

The McKenna Institute at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) is thrilled to announce a landmark $3.75 million investment from a partnership led by McCain Foods and other New Brunswick institutions that will revolutionize digital agriculture, progress regenerative farming practices and minimize the impact of climate change on farmland.

Over the next five years, McCain Foods is committing $2.76 million to create a project that imitates farming with regenerative agriculture practices, with the goal of increasing the uptake of more sustainable potato farming, globally. This digital model will act as a simulation for farmers, showcasing the environmental and business impacts of regenerative agriculture. This investment aligns with McCain Foods’ commitment to implement regenerative agriculture across 100 per cent of its global potato acreage by 2030.

“This investment will go a long way in supporting the future of New Brunswick’s agricultural landscape,” said Hon. Frank McKenna, founder of the McKenna Institute at UNB. “In this exciting partnership with McCain Foods, we look forward to enhancing research and innovation in the field of digital agriculture while exploring sustainable practices through digital solutions.”

Adding to McCain Foods’ substantial contribution, ResearchNB, the Government of New Brunswick’s Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture & Fisheries, and the McKenna Institute are collectively contributing an additional $990,000. This combined investment marks a pivotal step toward fostering a sustainable, resilient agricultural landscape.

This investment will enhance agricultural research at UNB by creating a “digital twin” of McCain’s Farm of the Future in Florenceville, NB. This commercial-scale research farm demonstrates sustainable farming practices, producing positive results on crop yield and quality while prioritizing soil health, water use, biodiversity and climate resilience. Work at the Farm of the Future will reduce the carbon emissions associated with farming while bolstering the resiliency and productivity of the farm.

“A key part of our effort to promote smart and sustainable farming is leveraging technology solutions to help us redefine the way we grow a potato,” says Max Koeune, President & CEO of McCain Foods. “This cutting-edge digital farm model will help potato farmers worldwide adopt practices that help regenerate soils, improve water management and biodiversity, and ensure a resilient farming operation."

A Chair in Digital Agriculture at UNB will be established with $1.5 million of the contribution. The Chair will oversee a range of research initiatives that may include digital agriculture, crop simulation modeling, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), sensor data and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to support their initiatives.

“We are pleased to partner with McCain Foods and the Government of New Brunswick on this substantial initiative,” said Dr. Paul J. Mazerolle, President and Vice-Chancellor of UNB. “This investment will strengthen our research in digital agriculture and support our commitment to sustainability by developing practical solutions for the environment and the agricultural community.”

Additionally, the investment will support various academic-led research projects in agricultural science, regenerative agriculture and smart farming practices, utilizing interactive analytics and digital twin technologies.

“New Brunswick agriculture producers need resources to be well-positioned for the future,” said Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Margaret Johnson. “The Chair in Digital Agriculture will provide the right knowledge and technologies to help New Brunswickers in agriculture increase productivity while minimizing the impact on the environment.”

“ResearchNB is pleased to contribute $500,000 in funding to support a new Chair in Digital Agriculture at UNB,” said Damon Goodwin, chief executive officer of ResearchNB. “Our province has long attracted top researchers in the agriculture and agri-food sector. We are thrilled to be part of a collaboration that will enhance this legacy through investments in digital agriculture.”

Photo caption: L-R: Damon Goodwin (CEO, ResearchNB), Peter Dawe (Chief Growth & Strategy Officer, McCain Foods), Hon. Margaret Johnson (Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Fisheries, Government of New Brunswick), Hon. Greg Turner (Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, Government of New Brunswick), Hon. Frank McKenna (Founder, The McKenna Institute), Adrienne Oldford (Executive Director, The McKenna Institute), Melissa O’Rourke (Associate Executive Director, The McKenna Institute), Scott McCain (Chairman, McCain Foods), Paul Mazerolle (President & Vice-Chancellor, University of New Brunswick).

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About McCain Foods

McCain Foods Limited is a family-owned business founded in 1957 in Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada. Today, the company is the world's largest manufacturer of frozen potato products and a global leader in prepared appetizers and snacks. Its products can be found in restaurants and retail stores in more than 160 countries around the world. The company has major production, retail and corporate operations around the world, employs approximately 22,000 people, operates 54 production facilities on six continents, partners with 3,500 farmers and generates annual sales in excess of $14 billion CAD.

About the McKenna Institute

The McKenna Institute fuels economic growth and social progress by advancing the use of digital technologies in New Brunswick. The Institute collaborates to accelerate our talent pipeline, nurture ideas and enable all New Brunswick communities to thrive in a digital world.

About the University of New Brunswick

The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is Canada's oldest English-language university, and New Brunswick’s only national comprehensive university. Founded in 1785, the multi-campus institution has a rich history as well as a dynamic focus on research, innovation, experiential learning and entrepreneurship. UNB welcomes more than 10,000 students from 100 countries to its campuses. With over 100 programs in 14 faculties, UNB helps students acquire the abilities needed to make an impact in their communities.

About ResearchNB

ResearchNB is the province’s research and innovation enabler. With offices in Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton, it provides New Brunswick’s research sector with critical leadership and support including advocacy, initial funding, connections to potential partners, and the translation of science into economic opportunities. Projects developed in partnership with ResearchNB help New Brunswickers to thrive through research that leads to new, innovative business practices and products.