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Lethbridge College expanding applied research capabilities

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Lethbridge College says it has one of the most advanced waste-processing systems in the world. Matt Battochio examines ongoing research at the institution.

In mid-July, the halls around Lethbridge College are pretty empty, considering most of the students are away recharging for the next school year. While students might be relaxing, the learning never stops for senior research scientist Nick Savidov.

“I’m very excited! Every day I spend in this facility gives me some new knowledge.”

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Savidov heads the college’s Aquaculture Centre of Excellence, which features some of the most state-of-the-art research of its kind.

“What you see here is one of the most advanced waste-processing systems in the world,” Savidov said.

The Aquaponics facility features a closed-loop system where plants are actually fueled by fish. It’s a fully integrated food system where the fish waste is used to provide nutrients for plants.

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“The main purpose of this technology is to make agriculture and food production more sustainable,” Savidov said.

Lethbridge College’s applied research capabilities are expanding. The college has a research budget of around $1.5 million a year and was named one of Canada’s top 50 research colleges in 2017, according to research infosource.

The college also received a $45,000 grant from the federal government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The grant will go towards small-scale research and related activities and will be spread out over three years.

The institution plans to continue exploring the areas of applied research.

“We’re one of 10 colleges across Canada in the last three years to receive research funding for social science research,” Lethbridge College Associate Vice-President of Research, Kenny Corscadden, said.

“Certainly our research focuses to provide real solutions. We’re looking at shorter projects from one to three years that can have pragmatic solutions that can really be implemented and have an impact on our local community.”

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The aquaponics technology at the college is being used by businesses in southern Alberta, where produce is being sold.

The college facility can produce food without any harmful effects on the environment. It’s a methodology Savidov thinks has “enormous” potential, and after years of academic research at universities around the world, he is finally finding real value in his work.

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“Being an academic researcher for many years, I didn’t have so much satisfaction from the results of my work as now,” Savidov explained. “When you see that you can help people be more competitive to be more sustainable, it’s an enormous feeling of reward.”

Savidov believes this is just the beginning of truly sustainable agriculture.