The McCain Foundation is investing $280,000 into University of Lethbridge graduate students with the aim of producing more innovative leaders in sustainable agriculture.
The McCain Foundation Studentships for Sustainable Agriculture program is intended to support and promote master of science students in biology, whose research focuses on science and leadership in sustainable agriculture.
The pilot project will fund at least six grad students for two years at $20,000 per year, offering training in experimental science with U of L researchers, as well as novel courses and new networking opportunities.
The students in the specialized cohort will conduct a thesis-based research project focusing on either genetics, physiology and natural product chemistry, or environmental sciences.
McCain Foundation chair Linda McCain said the organization has long supported initiatives in rural communities where McCain operates. The company has a potato-processing plant in nearby Coaldale and potatoes are grown by local farmers.
“We are pleased to support the McCain Studentship in Sustainable Agriculture, in line with our commitment to education and the environment, so these communities and their farms can continue to grow for generations to come,” McCain said.
Jeremy Carter, an agrologist and McCain’s director of agriculture in Western Canada, said with the world’s population expected to reach 10-billion people in the next 30 years, the need to produce more food using less resources is more critical than ever.
“Feeding an ever-growing population with agriculture practices that protect and preserve the planet is a massive challenge,” Carter said. “Producing delicious food sustainably is our priority, and we are committed to ongoing research into regenerative agriculture, and sharing this knowledge with farm families we partner with across Canada.”
According to a statement from the U of L, students chosen for the program’s studentships will take specialized coursework, including a lecture or seminar class focused on advances in sustainable agriculture, as well as a master class in agricultural enterprise management.
When they complete their work at the end of two years, students will take part in a research showcase event to demonstrate their work.
Matt Brogard, an assistant professor in the university’s department of biological sciences, said the program is an ideal training opportunity because students will be exposed to a broad platform that will enhance their research skills and knowledge bases.
“This program will enhance the employability of graduates, making them attractive candidates for careers in applied research or management in the sustainable agriculture industry,” he said.
McCain’s processing plant in Coaldale recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.