Expanding cannabis applied research

The research equipment will be installed on the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus in the same area as the current Commercial Cannabis Production Program building (shown above).

The Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC) is getting equipped to enter into cannabis applied research, thanks to a recent grant for dedicated space and specialized equipment to complete trials for the cannabis industry.

The $149,918 grant to Niagara College (NC) through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) from the Applied Research Tools and Instruments Grants (ARTI) program will cover the purchase and outfitting of a 40-ft segregated container. The AETIC Cannabis Production Research Chamber will enable the testing and utilization of sensors, unique lighting arrays, and other innovative concepts that require applied research work prior to use in licensed producers’ spaces, and commercial adoption.

Michelle Smith, who is a research lead for AETIC and a technologist for NC’s Commercial Cannabis Production (CCP) program – the first post-secondary credential of its kind in Canada, which launched in September 2018 – says the recent funding announcement will expand the College’s research capacity in cannabis.

Canada has a unique opportunity to be a world leader in cannabis production and NC holds a strategic position to support Canada’s cannabis producers and supporting industries. “Leading in cannabis production will include innovating and executing applied research in production technologies, crop management, support crop inputs, pest and disease management, sensors, and a combination of these elements,” notes Smith.

The objectives of the Research & Innovation applied research projects will be to help improve and maintain cannabis quality; prevent and reduce crop losses; provide commercialization support for cannabis production technologies and techniques; and integrated pest management (IPM) techniques.

The new units will be installed next to the academic growing areas of the College’s Commercial Cannabis Program, which includes five 20-ft secure shipping containers, on the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus. The AETIC Cannabis Production Research Chamber will include growing space that is controlled and isolated in order to perform safe, secure, and dependable research projects that will not negatively impact the academic crops.

“The equipment will help train students on controlled growing trials, cannabis production innovations, and for some students, there will be longer term paid project opportunities to be part of applied research work,” adds Smith.

The equipment and associated research will also help to support the more than two million square-feet of cannabis growing space in Niagara – and 8.7 million across Canada – in an industry that is anticipated to have legal recreational sales as much as $4.34 billion in 2019, and medical cannabis that is expected to generate an additional $0.77 to $1.79 billion in sales.

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