Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre Team
The seeds of sustainability and efficiency in agriculture have firmly taken root at Niagara College Research & Innovation through the efforts of Dr. Mike Duncan, the first NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges. With a specialization in Precision Agriculture and Environmental Technologies, the five-year mission of the Chair is to continue the work Duncan has already started when he arrived at Niagara College in 2001; to develop new tools; and to engage provincial and national farming communities.
Duncan came to Niagara College to found the Centre for Advanced Visualization (CFAV), a research group dedicated to exploring the use of virtual reality (VR) for urban and land use visualization. A year later, Duncan received one of the first large grants ever awarded to colleges, when the Ontario Innovation Trust (OIT) invested more than $330,000 dollars in CFAV. Two years later, he received one of six NSERC Community College Innovation Pilot Program grants awarded across Canada. While it was a research facility, CFAV worked with international firms like Parsons Engineering, and Delcan Engineering, as well as local governments and cities. In 2006, CFAV Inc. was incorporated to commercialize the CFAV group, and to pursue private contracts, so Duncan then founded the Augmented Reality Research Centre (ARRC) to continue research into VR and to expand its use into other areas such as precision agriculture.
An Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) grant in 2007 established ARRC and Niagara College firmly in the area of agricultural remote sensing and visualization with the PrAgMatic project which aims to help farmers increase crop yields while reducing dependence on fertilizers and water, therefore reducing environmental impact. The PrAgMatic system currently encompasses a host of technologies, including GIS/GPS, databases, 2D and 3D visualization, digital soil mapping (DSM), image classification, sensor networks, LIDAR, and other remote sensing technologies.
In 2009, Niagara College received one of the first Community College Innovation (CCI) grants of $2.3 million for the development of the Land Use Technology Centre to further focus on the PrAgMatic project. This work attracted the attention of local and international partners, including Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and IBM.
Maintaining a healthy respect for the fact that farming is a business, Duncan and his team of students and collaborators are examining questions like how to establish management zones in farm fields, how to recognize the onset conditions of killer frost events, and how to interpret and use remote sensed data in the context of a farm field.
Kimberley Cathline is the Research Project Manager of the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC). In her role, she oversees projects in the areas of precision agriculture technology, environmental technology, horticultural practices, and greenhouse research.
Kimberley has 15 years’ experience in applied agriculture research – most recently at the Vineland Research & Innovation Centre – managing numerous horticulture research projects, and previously at the University of California, Davis, where she managed viticulture research in lab, field and greenhouse environments. Kimberley holds a BSc (Hon. with Distinction) in Plant Biology from the University of Guelph and an MSc in Biological Sciences, specializing in Plant Sciences, from Brock University.
Christine George is the research lead for the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre. She leads and supports the success of applied research projects mainly for the Greenhouse Technology Network, a Niagara College-led initiative that brings together research institutions and greenhouse and technology businesses to accelerate the development, commercialization and adoption of new technologies. Research projects focus on validating novel products and/or technology through testing within greenhouses.
Also a faculty member at NC since 2019, Christine is a partial load professor teaching Plant Science 2 in the School of Environment and Horticulture program. After receiving her Master’s degree in Soil Science (2013) from the University of Guelph, Christine worked as a R&D lab manager for Alpha Agri Products Inc. She has spent the last three years as a private soil health consultant in southern Ontario, dividing her time between contract work with research or grant-driven projects, and soil sampling and analysis.
Bill MacDonald has extensive expertise in greenhouse production, plant agriculture, soil science, LED lighting, and nutrient-use efficiency. As well as a teaching faculty member and coordinator, Bill co-designed and developed the current Commercial Cannabis Production Ontario College Graduate Certificate program curriculum. He has experience supporting licensed cannabis producers in their production systems, advising on many aspects of their production and he serves on the Cannabis Jobs Steering Committee with the Niagara Workforce Planning Board.
With a strong background in the applied and research horticultural fields, Bill has managed and owned greenhouse operations in Nova Scotia and Ontario. He began his time at Niagara College in 2007 teaching Plant Science, Soil Science, and Nursery Management courses, as well as conducting ongoing applied research projects with the College’s Research & Innovation division. Bill holds a BSc in Soil Science (1983) and an MSc in Plant Agriculture (2013), both from the University of Guelph.
Derek Schulze has been a faculty member at Niagara College since 2016 for the School of Environment and Horticulture Studies, and the Coordinator for the Greenhouse Technician program. Prior to this, he spent 15 years in industry as a commercial greenhouse owner/operator (TJ Greenhouses Inc.). Derek received his MSc in plant biotechnology and biophysics from the University of Guelph (1996) and a BSc (Hon) from the University of Waterloo (1994). In the years between graduation and his time in industry, Derek worked as a Research Associate at Queen’s University in the Cancer Research Institute (CRI). While there, he contributed to grant applications, designing experimental protocols and performing research at both whole animal and cellular levels.
Sebastien Jacob is a professor in the Horticulture, Greenhouse and Commercial Cannabis programs at Niagara College’s School of Environment and Horticulture Studies. He joined the College in August 2018 after 15 years of practical experience in the greenhouse horticulture industry, which included advising, training and teaching growers and their staff – throughout North, Central and South America – the art of implementing and maintaining a successful Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program.
He also served as Research Assistant for both Laval University and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and as an IPM Specialist and R&D Manager for a biological control company. Sebastien holds an MSc in Entomology (Biocontrol Science) from the University of Montreal (2004) and a BSc in Biology from University of Quebec in Trois-Rivieres (1998).