Terramera®, the Vancouver-based agtech leader fusing science, nature and artificial intelligence to transform how food is grown and the economics of agriculture, recently announced that it is leading a significant project for the Canadian Digital Technology Supercluster (Supercluster). The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced the Supercluster’s investment and commitment to the initiative at an event hosted at Terramera’s company headquarters last week.
The Terramera-led Precision Agriculture to Improve Crop Health project is designed to leverage cutting-edge technology to prevent pests and protect food crops while reducing pesticide use. This important project brings together top researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, BC Cancer Research, Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, Compression.ai, Genome British Columbia, Sightline Innovation, Simon Fraser University, Trent University and the University of Saskatchewan. The diverse group will focus on solving issues of crop loss due to climate change and the resulting increase in pests, pathogens and viruses. It will start by addressing wheat leaf rust, which threatens Canada’s $7 billion in wheat exports per year, before tackling other devastating crop diseases. The project is particularly timely, coinciding with the United Nations declaring 2020 the International Year of Plant Health.
“Terramera is committed to reducing or eliminating 80% of the synthetic pesticide load in agriculture globally by 2030, and this project helps advance our goal,” said Karn Manhas, Terramera Founder and CEO. “We appreciate the opportunity to lead this important project through the Digital Technology Supercluster and collaborate with universities, government labs and innovative companies from across Canada to target crop disease management. By working together, we benefit from expertise developed in other sectors to grow and accelerate our mission to transform how food is grown and the economics of agriculture. It’s a novel approach that draws from many different fields that will impact genomics and digital technology in multiple ways, and can set the stage for other companies to solve problems unique to their fields, impacting both Canada’s digital economy, our agriculture economy and the health of Canadians across the country.”
Terramera’s Precision Agriculture to Improve Crop Health project team will develop new pest and pathogen controls through the use of computational biochemistry, genomics, machine learning and robotics. These technologies will be used to quickly identify and test new pest management formulations and determine their ability to attack specific fungi on specific crops. The tools developed through this work will have useful applications in other fields such as medicine, biotechnology, chemistry and computer science.
“We are excited to be part of this latest project funded by the Digital Technology Supercluster,” said Wallace Trenholm, CEO and Co-Founder of Sightline Innovation. “Sightline will be providing a secure data exchange platform that enables data sharing across partners while ensuring data security throughout. We’ll also be working with the genomics team to identify chromosomal regions of both wheat and the fungal pathogen that contribute to disease progression. This data will help us develop more effective treatments for an important crop disease.”
The Digital Technology Supercluster is a cross-industry collaboration of diverse organizations, including some of Canada’s biggest names in healthcare, communications, natural resources, technology and transportation.
“Our technology programs bring our Members together in an effort to solve some of Canadians’ most urgent problems in health care, manufacturing, agriculture and data,” said Supercluster CEO Sue Paish. “We are thrilled that Terramera is leading the Precision Agriculture to Improve Crop Health project. We believe this diverse group of industry experts will produce groundbreaking advances that can be applied in Canada and across the globe.”
The Precision Agriculture to Improve Crop Health project is one of six new projects the Supercluster has invested in through its Technology projects, which are focused on developing and commercializing new products, services and platforms that support the digital transformation of key Canadian industries. The total investment of $20.4 million dollars includes $7.3 million from the federal government and $13.1 million from industry and other partners. The collaboration fostered through this investment will allow Terramera to work with other industry experts to scale its Actigate™ technology to have the biggest possible impact, and encourage new ways of thinking to find solutions that don’t exist yet today.